In Neil Postman's (1985) "Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business", Postman points out that the nature of what we consider reliable data sources has changed over time. Once it was that “feeling is believing” then “saying is believing” then “seeing is believing” then “reading is believing” then “deducing is believing” and now “counting is believing.” Postman argues that it is the media driven culture that has reduced our concept of what is believable data to that which can be counted, that which can be objectified and abstracted. He also points out that when a culture's predominant media changes, where people look for truth also also changes.

In Understanding Media, Marshal McLuhan tells us that "first we shape our tools then our tools shape us." He also observes that when a culture moves from one type of dominant media to another it changes how truth is perceived as well as how we have control over it. It is the nature of the medium that defines what we believe. When we shift from one medium to another the rhetorical devices we use change as well.

Under this paradigm we shift from making decisions based on data to collecting data to support our beliefs as with this news story from National Public Radio on Wednesday, December 5, 2012.

  • "Money is tight at most public schools, and staff here know they must prove the need for this place. So they are gathering data about these nontraditional students. When students enter the door, they swipe their ID cards. That swipe creates a record, which helps the center justify more support and more space from the university."

Predominant Media
Example Culture
Dominant Truth Source
Core Media Features
Oral Dialog/Verbal Language
Ancient Greece
deducing is believing
Written Word
Medieval Europe
hearing & seeing is believing
Reserved for Privileged Few
Printed Word
U.S 1776-1900
deducing is believing
Electronic Media (Radio, TV)
U.S 1920-1990
feeling is believing & trust in authority
Passive Participation
Clear difference between audience and producer
Digital Media
Present Day Global
counting is believing
numbers (binary, hexadecimal, etc.)
massively participatory
lots of data generation

In Medieval times before the advent of the printing press most people relied on images in illustration, illuminated manuscript, and stained glass to visualize what is contained in written text. The illiterate and to those without access to copies of the source text had to rely on these visual interpretations to ascertain the truth. This is very similar to today's use of data visualization tools and infographics to help those who either are not good with numbers or who don't have access to the raw data to ascertain the truth. Each medium has a different set of affordances and range of expression. Information gained from an image contains information not gained from text or numbers. There are also limits to what visual representation can tell us.

external image OilPricePrediction.jpg
illuminated manuscript.jpg
external image CoB2012-02_CoB_Student_Demographics-HE-1200.png
Woodcut Engraving of Rhodes Citadel Mediaeval Period.png
external image wage_changeWEB.jpg

Social Media Data Visualization Tools:

  • external image visually.png- create infographics from your dataexternal image desktopIcon.png
  • external image R2JSiPBLkDYDKTUDywTGLsXlqKIlz81AYTDiv4u_AHQ1yABHjj1Tr4Y100My38n1WVHeyI-5jBXpL2fVEr3qcD1GDr2nmVMPxzkGQmo12zkUUZH_knI - Twitter Analyticsexternal image iOS%20icon.pngexternal image desktopIcon.png
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  • external image poC5e-5ZaKunZaiSfA3dj3QIX8fW1OZuLolUTrZx6wwqnQZxa6oP4doz5Eswcdfw-QEsJbGBBpHyvwurZDh4liKVwsVfNeehqnEjFkTDf45md_78jlk - Twitter follower analysis toolexternal image iOS%20icon.pngexternal image desktopIcon.png
  • external image dkUUBcJXo09v6JofqiQGAv6oa4tq1qa-mqcj3V9KVmlV22u2ow2jl1oI-nOZNIcu6Jtvkg7KNZfNm8HHoYAuz6W6bcxAqQ4v2EQOqsyfkbiF5iJPjrk - See Twitter like someone elseexternal image iOS%20icon.pngexternal image desktopIcon.png
  • external image to7ejeRnhtB_r_uu4MrDDiE8WDenwY4JWnFATRQis0ZRXbik9izv2GrDK_y1v2IU9CCHeV5j-g-YhjkoLA00u1Dacn54aTQO4I0pc3vZ_TcCWd4ZBlo - helps you identify spammers and remove them from your follow listexternal image desktopIcon.png
  • external image loJc1Vp6um1tICeKEEaB2yNrAVb_VelJrBqdjPa4BIdN4O24_tF7y-XctOxge5HgSkGTcp3lSHixv4qLITao6hMcA52yC3y2r0CNxhLTlcTwCJJe6HY- See who is retweeting your tweetsexternal image iOS%20icon.pngexternal image desktopIcon.png
  • external image A9Ue_p4QwKgil1FVaryzSJo6feGYDtnI6Uq-6pjiz02niSeTKxZXQf6Xbtb8fJ1BtvLck6-R7tTuPlvCET7wIE5U5JM7jBwNYlzAFXIYTV3G-64Rd5g- List of tools that let you send DM to multiple people, follow multiple users with one click, and analyze followers.external image iOS%20icon.pngexternal image desktopIcon.png
  • external image Vszl_bA3e_uqERuPbkczgksI28gTUf6sVvY3k0hs9CIslxl45Hcj4N4fH4qhmVf5oTwkusAr6gy8TRjA97ecbmqahvjUQ1-mh8H8JaXQi9U_U0aZf6Yexternal image iOS%20icon.pngexternal image desktopIcon.png
  • external image TwitQuit.png - Track who follows and unfollows you on Twitterexternal image iOS%20icon.pngexternal image desktopIcon.png
  • external image huDnCMz3O9Ha9Lt6eaWrzvYGfMrb7qEJxXpoHfLAGi8HLtBwchdpfWT_Ghk9tPF20NmVwhx-OgAqBg6XpUO3QsKeNSv-4XDr8bnlvNFRS8cPqaL5Z4g - Twitter Analyticsexternal image desktopIcon.png
  • external image VTvnrEpHamAYL8yDnS9wZEvToQP4LJi6o5tdiAG2APLFy0nSwZMzIhP5-nJTjyKVtDU4IPaR9i0dlJjV2kbOM4W_oZ4ZRgsgs9YcpsUfAw9QoVIMDYA- Track how many clicks the links you share on Twitter receiveexternal image desktopIcon.png
  • external image Y0VC4XxzJo_cBTLQxiHETK2jok3MOUFvKMzrVmfK05EhwJb_UFnCW3Ov-qpGyT7COQP22nkUExfxp8vthzQZJCznrxGuYZIIXW7cPuTvffXGPxQ-I78 - See how many people have seen your last 50 tweetsexternal image iOS%20icon.pngexternal image desktopIcon.png
  • external image 3rmNZFTrKkfpmkJl07TZYN8EH3FN2HPvC9QH1NspdVsfmbxld65O0XHa34OO4Euo9ngaxgbRSBL5L7nYPidJtcD3Uxk2sElGXLy114A_Bz7t5QFqirM - Analyzes which of your tweets have been most popular.external image iOS%20icon.pngexternal image desktopIcon.png
  • external image managefilter.png - Tool for managing who you follow on Twitter.external image desktopIcon.png
  • external image 07v931GYJPyzLPw4jCPSGw9z1UQ6KKVgie2z0znJ9QbCxa1qtPf3T11iLiV6o5aAaWmakdOqC953Hdeb8EIurMC1G42zVxyemDDECKVpqEeZsLf0mok- Neat site that is kind of like a mashup between Google Earth and Twitter.external image desktopIcon.png
  • external image lOjyrPWIo1I3GKs5Td02HJmWvDM5RX40WsoTyGmne2Z8mjq0fytY6gUNEDwwTTuMIXLTQjSTRWOoLmnczHfWiRS5uFWZXmGr7EGA2VurvlbMgaBZjc0- map where the people you are following are tweeting fromexternal image desktopIcon.png
  • external image TBqfLO__jIm_P3fyVVwElTSTZxZ2-QEOuLsfKjLhAFwNFyiQLknvKLIcQjeSu-M11dKGTEl83G8U8SUg4b6LoK-DeXdqxgoVo9ix5vRxycs1u3w9dEA- Twitter visualization tool that lets you see how people on Twitter are connectedexternal image desktopIcon.png
  • external image wbfM31YsWRHZEk_mFS2wG41jTzw4x5RtlomzFD1bkUCG6O00-dpkXn7pfC28SP8A6_AogYpBewlaiUVKFd4RCMebnAdsXw99rMMIO1igFXrjI1gk-D8- get a map showing where the people you follow on Twitter are in the world.external image desktopIcon.png
  • external image 1z0rIVRGU-08IFCX-fsQejBuVUDdu6pVVCLZn6oaehXFiybk7FO34f6UVR7YqjoAMJ7LO-f2Y5oHcGefGztCMxnX10141YEXi_b3B_5rUDRoZuhC03M- Real fun visualization of your Twitter followers. See yourself lead a parade.external image desktopIcon.png
  • external image 6DwfLx9ol2mpqr5jP-OvvEQuFavQrIqJWNYJsGsjqAyUZVbwjnpq1fvH_kzjE_FycntO0dtEM5AoAzwUkn-8hmfHYeoZ8LsnlEQGyk7ZQoM-QR2HrqU- This tool displays one tweet at a time from a search stream really big on your screen.external image iOS%20icon.pngexternal image desktopIcon.png
  • external image 5zUz9ALYM2c90YWNWxwmODdQTOoaqg-5V2rG_nKQQ0Ht2YxKZVKYLJsHabM-S_rXzisEPl35p64IU_sIjiODVgeKPuuYOAu_2wuEOygamrix-r3t5zc- Fun way to display a Twitter stream.external image desktopIcon.png
  • external image rJjV0I4PYYVLK7fgYA7NSRUzoALH9Y7kAckkIdCmrp8RIhou5IahOMuqxItcc-4Wa3l3F6wZICGtLGpPfptA6wF5OFeJ_RHuh2HkGTq8Xn3wFTK2liw- real-time twitter wall for conferences, events, cafe and classrooms.external image iOS%20icon.pngexternal image desktopIcon.png
  • external image 0YJ3axqZodY8nLS42xh9QBPUWta66l9rSp4EcHwycGS9ReQh6jpJImI4drh-BDNUZDjDeCjTfCJG8Z8UCdRSVwrCScDOGR3oB6fXguhUHddpevqn5Kw- Enter Twitter Search Terms, and visualize tweets by a users location on a mapexternal image iOS%20icon.pngexternal image desktopIcon.png
  • external image twitdrip.png - Treats your tweets like rain drops.external image desktopIcon.png