There is a great website that was created for fun but demonstrates some basic principles of data really well. The initial image is a large dot. When you run your cursor over a dot, it divides into smaller dots. The dots continue to break into smaller, more nuanced dots that eventually reveal a picture.
If you were to run the process in reverse, you would start out with pixels of information arranged into a pattern that creates a picture. But as you put them together, they lose important detail, until all that is left is a single dot.
Every time we generalize about people or information or ideas, bits of detail get lost. There is a zen saying: To define something is to limit it. A picture’s worth a thousand words is a similar idea. The very act of putting something complex and nuanced into a more general description, diminishes what is possible to convey about the thing itself. Representations are never