Computational Information Design
Information design is the practice of giving form to data so that the data become meaningful. In this context, data are a raw material. The data can be of many types, from digits streaming across the Internet to electrical stimulation in the brain. But such data has no, or minimal, meaning associated with it. In contrast, information is data that have been given structure and shape, translated and contextualized in a way that allows them to be used as the basis for understanding or action. The practices of information design usually center on activities of rendering data, encompassing the dual meaning of rendering as both an activity of processing and an activity of producing an image or representation.
Like design generally, information design extends beyond any single discipline. It draws from multiple fields, including graphic design, writing and technical communication, information science, cognitive science, and computer science. The products of information design are equally diverse, including typography, layout, text, diagrams, illustrations, documentary photography, maps, and visualizations. Information design as a practice reflects the constitution and role of information generally within society: the practices and forms of information design respond to the changing qualities of data. As the mediums of data transmission and consumption and the materiality of data have changed in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, so too has the practice of information design changed. Computation has affected the ways in which data are processed and formed into representations and the qualities of those representations. Understanding the practice of computational information design and providing insights into what it means to do design with computation requires identifying and understanding the principal qualities of computation. These qualities shape the practice of information design and provide particular affordances for agonistic expression.