Data Visualisation 3 – The Illusion of Right Answers

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. Wayne Dyer.

This week I continued my exploration of mindful learning. I conducted a daily morning guided mindfulness meditation by Byron Katie[1] during which I observed stories emerge in the present moment while focusing on the breath and sounds. As Katie suggests, I noticed themes of thoughts and gave them a one-word label. In addition to this, I recorded emotions, time, steps walked, and water drank during each meditation. My intention this week was to become observant outside the meditation period too and notice thoughts which would create a binary right-wrong narrative. Rather than functioning on auto-pilot based on the script of such a narrative, mindfulness allowed me to take an inquisitive perspective instead.

I observed identified two areas of enquiry which fluctuated:

  1. A judgement about somebody or of a hypothetical situation– which didn’t turn out to be true
  2. An actual event which carried its own interpretation but later turned from being negative or stressful to neutral or positive; through mindfulness I wasn’t heavily attached to the narrative produced by the event and was open to change or whatever arises.

I decided to discard much of the quantitative data collected in each mindfulness mediation and focus on the qualitative writing; this then had to be categorised for me to present ‘data visually’ in a meaningful way for another to interpret. Discarding data also allowed simplicity in the visual diagram which otherwise was cluttered with too many colours. The visual diagram was inspired by an image on higher-dimensional thinking[2] which to me offers a rich symbolism of how multiple perspectives, interpretations or narratives can exist for Reality yet (through the process of mindfulness) one can see beyond the binary script which often defines it. i.e not just to have another interpretation of the event or to see from the view of another (shown by the circle-square binary), but to also be able to witness from another level altogether (represented by the cylinder).  

The picture above demonstrates how a cylinder can appear both as a circle and square from different perspectives [2]

Often the failure to recognise insights in another perspective is hindered in education when there is an expectation of only a single right answer or when facts are presented as ‘immutable, unconditional truths’[3]. Mindful consideration of data as sources of ambiguity rather than stable commodities [4], Langer suggests can lead to deeper levels of observation and it is this uncertainty which enhances creative thinking and problem solving based on non-traditional definitions of intelligence[5].

A reversible figure, forming the shape of two faces or vase-like shape can also be seen from the third ‘inverted’ perspective

[1] ‘The Gift of Imagination’ – A Meditation. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hu6ooIsu5dg

[2]Higher Dimensional Thinking, the End of Paradox, and a More Adequate Understanding of Reality – Daniel Schmachtenberger’, Oct 2017

[3] When the Angles of a Triangle Don’t Add up to 180 Degrees (no date). Available at: https://nrich.maths.org/1434 (Accessed: 14 February 2021).

[4] Reversible figure. [Photograph]. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Retrieved 14 Feb 2021, from https://quest.eb.com/search/118_801056/1/118_801056/cite

[5] Langer, E. J. (2016) The Power of Mindful Learning. Da Capo Lifelong Books.

3 Replies to “Data Visualisation 3 – The Illusion of Right Answers”

  1. Great to see you continuing to explore the visualisation of ‘qualitative’ data, I think this is a useful way to approach this task, and productively challenges some of the assumptions around what ‘data viz’ can offer. Although it is interesting that working with qualitative data also requires us to categorise, and make decisions about representation.

    ‘The visual diagram was inspired by an image on higher-dimensional thinking[2]’

    Nice image, and certainly conveys the idea of different perspectives. Some useful reflection at the end of this post too, which seems to suggests ways to link the mindfulness literature with those offering a critical view of data.

  2. Thank you for bring qualitative data concept here. We are studying that in Research methods but didn’t occur to me to bring to the weekly assignments. During the meditation how often you were thinking about the data collection exercise itself?

    1. Hi
      Thank you for leaving a comment – more so in visualisation 2 as I was thinking of new ideas of data representation but not so much in visualisation 3. How is qualitative data being studied in Research methods?

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