Statistical representations from popular texts for the ordinary citizen, 1889-1914

Marija Dalbello, Anselm Spoerri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


Statistical representations in the popular almanacs published at the end of the 19th century in the Habsburg Empire are an early prototype of visualizing statistical data for popular consumption and informing the public of an ethnically and linguistically differentiated society. The purpose of this article is to analyze these statistical representations using a combination of humanistic and visual analysis methods. The article focuses on the persuasive aspects (rhetoric) of diagrams, how they visualize knowledge and information (pragmatics), and the nature and structure of visual sense making (semantics). The form and content are related to the social context and materiality of images. These early popular diagrams predate functional design defined by positivism and science. They are interpreted as a historical practice of knowledge visualization in the context of a post-Enlightenment information regime (epitomizing rational government and the privileged position of statistics as instrument of increasing the efficiency and social control of the state). The modernist approach shapes the same information regime in information science discourse. The analysis - Based on principles of information visualization and functional design requirements - Shows that these examples possess a sound visual structure based on functional design criteria, and that they integrate cultural context without distorting the data. The advantages of naturalistic and culturally rich visualizations that enable ordinary citizens to acquire knowledge through leveraging simple visual reasoning skills, reliance on mental models, and narrative conventions are identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-109
Number of pages27
JournalLibrary and Information Science Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 15 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Information Systems
  • Library and Information Sciences

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