The Impact of Open Source Software on Data Visualisation

Data visualization is the process of displaying data/information in graphical charts, figures and bars.”(

As part of our presentation on Data Visualisation, I researched the relationship of Data Visualisation and Open Source software. For me, Data Visualisation is crucial for Digital Humanities as it allows researchers to show their research in a variety of different ways which can be seen as innovative and interactive for audiences.

In terms of e-commerce an example of digital visualisation is company Uber using digital visualisation to map the most popular destinations for people to order Ubers. Uber’s director of data visualisation Nicolas Garcia Belafonte has praised the use of software and explained why overuse that to track popular pickup and drop off points around the area.

“Personally, I’m a very big advocate for open source, so I think that open source can help the business in many other ways, and those ways are immediately more valuable than someone paying for this software.”

This brings up the notion of Open Source software and its uses. Webopedia defines open source as, “refers to a program in which the source code is available to the general public for use and/or modification from its original design free of charge, i.e., open. Open source code is typically created as a collaborative effort in which programmers improve upon the code and share the changes within the community.” For many having open source software is a dealbreaker and can often be more cost effective in the long run. There is a number of open source software that allows people to include some form of data visualisation in order for progress their research,  one of these software companies is is which allows users to create a variety of digital visualisation projects using spatial maps and interactive materials.

One company has expanded into open source software as well as their original brand. E-Commerce company AirBnB has put money into data visualisation by creating their own tool called SuperSet which supports 30 kinds of visualisation techniques at the moment alone. But it is expected to grow over time.  Superset itself is also easy to use and is compatible with by programming languages compared to its competitors. This is a huge step forward for AirBnB as it expands its already innovative brand ethos. It also gives other companies something to work towards in terms of creating similar types of software in the future.

Data Visualisation and Open Source software are both an emerging and viable field in Digital Humanities. I found it extremely interesting to find out about certain companies using these software techniques in order to develop their company and its research policies. I also found the idea of people using the software in e-commerce intriguing, as it is often difficult to imagine other uses for Data Visualisation outside of the scholarly world seeing as the majority of the examples that we seen in the lecture environment are usually set in the scholarly world, so it is good to see the real world applications of this kind of software.

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