Language choices aside (for better or worse), I would agree, and most people in this space probably would as well. You referenced a post Few made about how visualization is essentially a new space, and so generallly accepted rules about it have yet to fully develop. We have a responsibility to then promote some of the better ways to display data as our eyes can interpret it. I like the analogy to writing--what's the use of stunning writing if that obscures the actual meaning of what's being conveyed? Then again, poetry is kind of like that, and it's a standard form of writing. Is there a place for visualization that's analogous?
That said, I personally think there are a lot of visual aesthetics that we could do at Tableau to make our own views more pleasing as well, and easier for that matter. Color palettes, anyone?
I think the phrase "visually stunning" could be too strong in this context, and it caused all the commotion. It could be interpreted as describing something that can qualify as a work of art, but I personally wouldn't call "stunning" any of the examples offered by Ross. They are well designed information displays that follow best practices of both data viz and aesthetics, but no more than that. Aurora Borealis is visually stunning, perhaps a spectacular volcanic eruption, etc., but a graph? Maybe if it is one of McCandless, but refer to Stephen Few's comments on that.
"Aesthetically pleasing" would be a better fit, in my opinion.
I think you boiled it down well. Stunning is a good word to describe a beautiful and functional visualization, in my opinion, but its such a contentious word in this space that I should have said something like "aesthetically pleasing."
I guess what I was trying to convey was that a good viz does impart some kind of emotional response- engagement, curiosity, appreciation. Something!
Here is a fresh example of a candidate for visually stunning viz: The Data Studio Art in Tableau...
The important thing here is that it was created with the purpose to impress visually, so it is more of an artwork than a graphical representation of data.
This can start (or already started?) the whole new art movement - people may want to frame it and put it on the wall, and would not care what's behind the curves.
It may be a fuzzy boundary, but a boundary nevertheless, between visual art and visual information. McCandless creations, in my opinion, are somewhere in that fuzzy boundary.