I recently watched a TEDxUtrecht video, “Data by Itself Is Not Enough, Data Needs Poetry,” by digital artist Brendan Dawes. How could I not, with that title?!
Two main points from his talk stuck with me:
- We entice serendipity by going non-linear. Brendan Dawes gave the example of looking for information on the web. Normally, browsing the web is relatively linear process. You go to a search engine and put in some words and get some results, or you click links on a navigation bar. The typical web search interface does not provide a great way to just bump into things. So Dawes made his own experimental way to surf the web in hopes of inviting serendipity and discovery, called Doodlebuzz. Doodlebuzz is a chaotic draw-to-explore system to help people discover things they didn’t even know they were looking for. “DoodleBuzz,” the tool’s website says, “was born out of an idea to create an entirely new way of exploring information - one that allows for a kind of 'quiet chaos' that gives people the opportunity to explore unthought of paths and connections along their news gathering journey . . .” The user types in a search term and then draws a shape on the screen with their mouse. Search results are ordered along the shape. They can explore, following any line of inquiry that seems interesting, by drawing more lines or shapes.
- We remember the unexpected. In this talk, Dawes attributed a quote to structural engineer and designer Cecil Balmond with regard to the Pedro e Inês footbridge in Portugal: “We wanted to break the traditional, continuous sight lines of a bridge to create a structure that provokes exploration and questioning of accepted practices and methods.” This footbridge makes an unexpected bend in the middle (see image below). Dawes said, “When you do something that goes against the unexpected, then beautiful things can happen. . . And that’s also what people remember, as well . . . They are used to the expected.” A bridge with a curve, instead of straight across, can lead a pedestrian to wonder who they are going to bump into as they go around that curve. It makes them think differently and provides a memorable experience.
These ideas are beautifully relevant for Business Discovery. QlikView Business Discovery apps invite a non-linear experience. Users can explore the data any way they want to – up, down, or sideways. With each click or tap in their app – or by back-tracking and removing selections they have made – they generate new on-the-fly views of their data. With each step along the way, they expose relationships in the data and derive insights they may never have thought to pursue directly. It is in the unexpected nature of discovery that delight awaits.