NYU Data Vis: Class Description and Syllabus 2016

Data Visualization from 2D to 4D
[Screen Graphics to Physical Objects]

DM-GY 9103-C, Fall 2016
Prof. Arlene Ducao, arlduc [at] nyu.edu
Thursdays, 4:30-7:20 PM
2 Metrotech, Room 811


What is data visualization? Why and how do we do it? Who do we do it for? This course will take you through the process of understanding data visualization role’s in our information landscape, evaluating the kind of data that is best for visualization, and connecting with communities that provide and use the data. Prerequisites: a basic understanding of HTML, CSS, and one scripting language, i.e. Javascript.

Learning Goals

  • To understand the history, functionality, and anatomy of data visualization.
  • To classify data and information visualization based on temporal, spatial, tangible, and contextual criteria.
  • To understand the politics and community contexts that inform data visualization.
  • To choose and apply the appropriate tools for developing a wide array of basic data visualizations.
  • To plan and execute a complex data visualization project based on human-centered design principles, including significance, relevance, and usability.


Note: Guest lecturers and trips are subject to change.

Phase I: Let’s Visualize.
  • Session 1: September 8. Class Overview and Toolkit.
  • Session 2: September 15. Toolkit Deep Dives.
  • Session 3: September 22. Field Trip to ProPublica. Optional: NYC Media Lab Summit.
  • Session 4: September 29. Diving into data. Guest Speaker: Rahul Bhargava, MIT; April Gu and David Segall, NYC Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.
  • Session 5: October 6. Phase I project presentations.
Phase 2: Whose Data Is It, Anyway?
  • NO CLASS: October 13. Contact community partners to work with.
  • Session 6: October 20. Field Trip to New York Hall of Science (discuss with class)
  • Session 7: October 27. Guest speaker on R and data analysis: Kevin Miklasz, Brainpop.
  • Session 8: November 3. Field trip to Viacom. Book and community updates.
  • Session 9: November 10. Discussion on color. Phase 2/3 one-on-one project discussions.
Phase 3: Visualization for Actual People.
  • Session 10: November 17. Phase 2 paper presentations.
  • NO CLASS: November 24, Thanksgiving.
  • Session 11: December 1. Final project studio time.
  • Session 12: December 8. Field Trip to Facebook.
  • Session 13: December 15. Final project presentations. Invite your community partners!

Recommended Tools (and see more in the Assignment 1 PDF)

Recommended Books (to be discussed in Class 1)

Technique / Science Books

Historical / Foundational Books

Office Hours

Thursday by appointment. E-mail arlduc [at] nyu.edu to make an appointment.


  • 20% Phase 1 Project: Demonstration of prototype & brief write-up.
  • 20% Phase 2 Paper: Research article & MLA-formatted bibliography.
  • 25% Phase 3 Final: An ethnographic project drawing on skills and concepts developed in Phase 1 and 2.
  • 20% Class participation.
  • 15% Blog posts based on class discussion and project development. At least nine posts are required for the semester (three posts per class phase).
  • Encouraged extra credit options:
    • Expanded blogging
    • Video documentation
    • Project web site
    • Conference paper


Attendance to all class sessions is mandatory. Class starts at 3:30 sharp. Excused absence requests, i.e. for a religious holiday or a conference, must be made at least 3 business days ahead of the scheduled absence. Emergency absences must be accompanied by official documentation, i.e. a doctor’s note or MTA notice. One letter grade drop will occur for every two unexcused late arrivals or one unexcused absence. For additional NYU School of Engineering Academic Policies and Requirements, please consult this link.

Moses Statement

If you are student with a disability who is requesting accommodations, please contact New York University’s Moses Center for Students with Disabilities at 212-998-4980 or mosescsd@nyu.edu.  You must be registered with CSD to receive accommodations.  Information about the Moses Center can be found at www.nyu.edu/csd. The Moses Center is located at 726 Broadway on the 2nd floor.