Traditionally, data visualization has been a reductionist practice; it is used to seek answers rather than ask questions. This strategy almost does a disservice to the complexity of big data. That's because big data often contains hidden knowledge and insights you didn't even know you were looking for. So, as Thorp explains, data visualization should be a means to cultivate and generate new questions. It should not simply be a means to an end. The goal, he explains, is question farming rather than answer farming.
Thorp, who was recently chosen as one of National Geographic’s Emerging Explorers, also says data visualization should be interactive. Being able to see and manipulate the data opens the door for deeper discovery. Thorp recently co-founded the Office for Creative Research (OCR) and was formerly the Data Artist in Residence for The New York Times. In his work and his keynotes, Thorp explores the way that data reflects our humanity. In its raw form, the data available to us may seen useless. But visualizing the information is key to unlocking big data's potential and applying it to our lives.