• Researchers Map Chaos Inside Cancer Cell

    December 29, 2008  |  Network Visualization

    cancer-cell

    The thing about cancer cells is that they suck. Their DNA is all screwy. They've got chunks of DNA ripped out and reinserted into different places, which is just plain bad news for the cells in our body that play nice. You know, kind of like life. Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston have compared the DNA of a certain type of breast cancer cell to a normal cell and mapped the differences (and similarities) with the above visualization.

    The graphic summarizes their results. Round the outer ring are shown the 23 chromosomes of the human genome. The lines in blue, in the third ring, show internal rearrangements, in which a stretch of DNA has been moved from one site to another within the same chromosome. The red lines, in the bull's eye, designate switches of DNA from one chromosome to another.

    Some design would benefit the graphic so that your eyes don't bounce around when you look at the technicolor genome but it's interesting nevertheless.

    Check out the Flare Visualization Toolkit or Circos if you're interested in implementing a similar visualization with the above network technique.

    [Thanks, Robert]

  • Budweiser Maps Drinkabilty of Bud Light Beer

    December 28, 2008  |  Mapping

    Yes, watered down and flavorless beer has high drinkability. You know, sort of like water. The difference is shade of yellow.

  • Urban Heartbeat of European Cities – Urban Mobs

    December 22, 2008  |  Mapping

    During major events, people use their mobile phones to share their emotions: the euphoria of a football match in Spain or Romania, World Music Day in France, or Saint John's night in Poland. We want to share our excitement, so we call up our close friends and family. Urban Mobs allows us to see this activity in four major European cities - this "urban heartbeat" so to speak.

    So when is someone going to do something for the United States?

    [Thanks, @MacDivaONA]

  • Because It’s Friday

    December 19, 2008  |  Mapping

    Have a good weekend all. I'll be getting buried in the expected 12 inches of snow here in Buffalo in the meantime :).

    [via superpoop | Thanks, Georgina and @tarheelcoxn]

  • 5 Best Data Visualization Projects of the Year

    December 19, 2008  |  Visualization

    Data visualization continues to grow online and in the real world. It exists as masterful art pieces and amazingly useful analysis tools. In both cases though it brings data -- which is oftentimes cryptic -- to the masses and shows that data is more than a bucket of numbers. Data is interesting. As we collect more and more data about ourselves and our surroundings, the data and the visualization will only get more interesting. On that note, I give you FlowingData's picks for the top 5 data visualization projects of 2008. Visualizations were judged based on the use of data, aesthetics, overall effect on the visualization arena, and how well they told a story.

    Honorable Mention: Wordle

    Wordle, by Jonathan Feinberg, is the word cloud revamped. Wordle caught on like wildfire across the Web as people were putting in their RSS/Atom feeds, cutting and pasting snippets, and visualizing presidential speeches. It was even added to the Many Eyes visualization toolbox. It's hard to say what exactly made Wordle so popular, but I think it was a mix of randomness, aesthetics, and customization options.

    5. Decision Tree: The Obama-Clinton Divide

    Amanda Cox of The New York Times has a knack for creating excellent graphics. She managed to make regression trees interesting and spark some heated debate with her Obama-Clinton graphic. I would also like to note that Amanda has, yes, a statistics degree. Excuse me while I beam with pride.

    4. Radiohead "House of Cards" Music Video

    The Radiohead "House of Cards" music video was a bit different in that no cameras were used to "film" it. Instead, they used a rotating scanner and lasers to collect 3D data. What you see in the music video (below) is a visualization of all that data. The group behind the video also made the data freely available, which is icing on the cake. You don't have to be a Radiohead fan to appreciate that.

    3. Last.fm and Movie Box Office Streamgraphs

    Lee Byron was certainly on to something when he created Streamgraphs to visualize music listening history on last.fm. They are a variant of stacked graphs and an improvement on Havre et al.'s ThemeRiver in the way the baseline is chosen, layer ordering, and color choice. In February 2008, Amanda Cox (yes, again), Matthew Bloch, and Shan Carter of The New York Times, together with Lee, used a similar technique to show the ebb and flow of box office receipts for 7,500 movies over 21 years. Discussion burst out across the Web -- about the technique and what people were seeing in the data -- that I am convinced would not have come about if instead of a Streamgraph, they used say, a stacked bar chart.

    Read more about the Streamgraph in Lee Byron and Martin Wattenberg's paper: Stacked Graphs - Geometry & Aesthetics.

    2. I Want You to Want Me

    I Want You to Want Me was commissioned by New York's Museum of Modern Art and created by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar, who you probably know from past projects, We Feel Fine and Lovelines. The two are best known for the ability to tell stories with data, and it shows in IWYTWM, which explores the world of online dating. Individuals float in balloons hoping to find their match.

    Here's the video, so you can more fully appreciate the work:

    This blend of art, computer science, and mathematics is beautiful.

    1. Britain From Above

    When I first caught a glimpse of a clip from Britain from Above, I was immediately impressed, and it only left me wanting more. It was a special series on the BBC with beautiful visuals produced by 422 South. GPS traces from taxi cabs and airline flights scurried to locations; telephone communications glowed in the sky; ground lights twinkled as if the roles of sky and earth were switched; and internet traffic burst from computer to computer. With all that data on display, patterns emerged - zero air traffic in no-fly zones and taxis taking alternate routes to avoid heavy traffic.

    At the time, the videos weren't available to the U.S., but they are now, and the BBC has posted them on YouTube as well. Pretty lights:

    There you have it - FlowingData's top 5 data visualizations for 2008. It's going to be interesting to see what comes out in 2009. Now it's your turn. What's on your list?

  • Visualize Music Collections With MusicBox

    December 18, 2008  |  Visualization

    musicbox

    The great thing about being a graduate student is that you get to experiment. Anita Lillie, from the MIT Media Lab, demos MusicBox, her master's thesis project that visualizes and maps music collections based on songs' acoustic features. As might be expected, she uses principle components analysis to arrange songs. Each dot represents a song. If two songs sound similar, they should appear close to each other. As an example, the above dots are colored by music genre. Rap songs appear on the left in red while classical appears on the right.

    As an aside, Anita's project reminds me a lot of a GGobi demo by Di Cook. She used the tuneR library in R to quantify Beatles songs and then used GGobi to do something similar to MusicBox. R and GGobi are free to use, so if you're interested in visualizing your own music library, you might want to check them out.

    [via TechCrunch]

  • Sculptural Data Visualization – Stock Market and GDP

    December 17, 2008  |  Data Art

    anfischer_fundament_1

    In his latest data sculptures, Andreas Nicolas Fischer places data visualization in a physical space when we're so used to seeing it on a computer monitor. Above is a piece of two layers - the bottom is gross domestic product for 2007 (made of plywood) and the top maps "the derivatives volume, alloted to the coordinates of the countries on a map." I don't know what derivatives volume and I probably should, but I'm too lazy to look it up (a lil' help please?).
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  • Winner of Tufte Books and Many Other Good Entries

    December 11, 2008  |  Contests, Statistical Visualization

    I ran a contest last week to improve a graph from Swivel that showed immigration to the United States. FlowingData readers sent in lots of different approaches (that took me forever to get organized for this post), and I still stand by my statement that there's always more than one way to skin a dataset.
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  • What Jobs Are There in Data Visualization?

    December 10, 2008  |  Visualization

    I got an email from Harald asking, "How does the job market for DV developers work?" I find this question, or some variation of it, in my inbox every now and then, so I thought I'd give it a shot. I am after all a graduate student who will graduate eventually, so let's take a look at some of the options. I'd like to expand on the question though, and not just focus on developers. What's the job market like for anyone who wants to do data visualization for a living?

    In the News

    Infographics in the news have been commonplace for a while now. Maps, charts, graphs, plots, etc. are in the newspaper every day, and as news on the Web continues to expand, so do the types of interactive visualizations. In fact The New York Times has its own graphics department as well as a group dedicated to online interactives. It's only a matter of time before the other big news organizations follow suit (unless they go bankrupt first).

    Examples: The New York Times / MSNBC / Washington Post

    Design Studios

    There are a lot of data visualization specialists who masquerade as graphic designers. As a result, there are lots of design studios that do data visualization (although they don't focus on just that alone) that do work for the Web or a slew of other things like company branding, physical installations, or simply art pieces. I can only think of a handful of design groups that are specifically known for data visualization. Either way though, most stuff that the studios push out are more on the artistic end of things, naturally.

    Examples: Stamen Design / Bestiario

    Analytics Groups

    Analytics is on the opposite site of the spectrum. It's all about decision-making. Businesses are starting to rack up terabytes of data per day, but aren't sure what to do with it. Basic Microsoft Excel skills will only take you so far. You'll also hear about dashboards pretty often. Think lots of graphs and lots of charts and lots of data which takes a certain statistical expertise to manage effectively.

    Example: Juice Analytics / Axis Maps

    Research Labs

    While the analytics groups tend to be more about application of existing visualization techniques, there are research labs that primarily think of ways to improve the existing or new representations of data. They design, experiment, analyze, and then write papers. It's like getting paid to be a graduate student, I imagine. Visualization software companies not dissimilar to FlowingData sponsors might also be bundled into this group.

    I visited AT&T research labs a few months ago, and there was a small group focused on the best way to show network graphs. The IBM Visual Communications Lab does a lot with social data analysis.

    Examples: AT&T Labs / IBM Visual Communications Lab

    Academics

    This one is sort of obvious I guess. Academics is similar to working in a research lab, and really, a lot of academic groups call themselves a research lab anyways. Often you'll see collaboration between the two. The only difference is, uh, professors have to put up with graduate students like me. Tough nookies.

    Examples: Berkeley Visualization Lab / MIT Media Lab

    Freelancing

    A lot of businesses aren't looking for a full-time visualization person. They just need some help with things here and there. There are also a lot of online developments that can benefit from having some visualization. Some have already got developers, but want some aesthetics, while others might have a specific data set that they want realized - might be just for show or actually something quantitative. There's certainly a wide variety out there.

    Examples: Daniel McLaren / Moritz Stefaner / Jon Peltier

    What About You?

    That covers a good bit, but I'm almost certain that I've missed something. If your expertise is data visualization, what do you do for money? I, among many others, would be interested to know in the comments.

  • Navigate Articles, Photos, and Video from Around the Globe

    December 9, 2008  |  Mapping

    The Washington Post recently put up TimeSpace: World, which is an interactive map that shows articles, video, photos, and commentary as they happen around the world (through the Washington Post's eyes). Similar to Trulia Snapshot, by Stamen Design, news items are arranged with a force-directed graph and can be filtered by time with a timeline at the bottom. Adjust time range to find news stories from a given time of day. You get a breakdown of number of images, articles, etc. Photos seem to dominate. Here is the embedded version (which seems a little buggy):

    One thing that I really liked about Trulia Snapshot, which isn't included as a part of TimeSpace: World is a play button. It'd be like watching the news unfold over time - or even better, make TimeSpace self-updating. Maybe in the next iteration.

    [Thanks, Steven]

  • Explore and Analyze Geographic Data with UUorld

    December 8, 2008  |  Mapping

    united-states

    UUorld (pronounced "world") is a 4-dimensional mapping tool that lets you explore geographic data - the fourth dimension being time. The interface will remind you a bit of Google Earth with the map, pan, zoom, etc, however, UUorld isn't trying to replace Google Earth. In fact, it'll probably be better if you use it with Google Earth. Think of it as another tool to add to your box of mapping toys.

    UUorld's focus is on finding trends over space and time. Load your own data or import data from UUorld's data portal, and then play it out over time. Spatial boundaries undulate up and down as land masses look a bit like skyscrapers. Color and boundary lines are customizable. When you're satisfied with the results, record it as video or export as KML, and then import into Google Earth or whatever else you want.

    How effective is this method of visualization though? There's the usual argument of area perception, but does color-coding and vertical dimension make up for that? Discuss amongst yourselves.

  • Guess What State Searches for ‘Poo’ the Most – StateStats

    December 5, 2008  |  Mapping, Statistics

    StateStats is like Google Insights but on a state level. Type in a search term and get Google search levels with correlations to certain "metrics" like obesity or support for Obama. Any Web application that uses correlation tends to make me feel a bit iffy, but it's just for fun, so I guess it's okay.

    Being the immature man-child that I am, the first thing I type in the search field is poo. I thought it was hilarious interesting that Louisiana's relative search rate was so much higher than all the other states. Apparently, obesity correlates moderately.

    I'm sure all of you will search for more sophisticated terms.

    [Thanks, @Chimp711]

  • Typographic Illustration for Jay-Z’s ‘Brooklyn Go Hard’

    December 4, 2008  |  Data Art

    Evan Roth from the Graffiti Research Lab, uses typographic illustration in Jay-Z's music video for Brooklyn Go Hard. As the song plays out, we see sketches of Jay-Z drawn using Brooklyn (sort of what we saw from Jeff at Neoformix). It's quite the work of art:

    You can download the source code for the video from Evan's site, which is pretty cool too.

    [via Animal | Thanks, Max]

  • Visualization Projects from Database City – Visualizar’08

    December 2, 2008  |  Data Art, Mapping

    This is a guest post by Greg J. Smith, a Toronto-based designer and researcher. Greg writes about design, visualization and digital culture on his personal blog Serial Consign.

    A few weeks ago the second edition of the Visualizar workshop wrapped up at Medialab-Prado in Madrid. In curating the event this year, organizer José Luis de Vicente selected urban informatics as the focus of research and visualization development. Partially inspired by Cascade on Wheels (a project created at the workshop last year), the Visualizar mandate was in line with contemporary thinking about the city where the street is viewed as a platform and urban space is considered a DIY enterprise. Visualizar'08 brought together a range of programmers, designers, architects, illustrators and scholars to participate in a seminar on contemporary thinking about the city and then bunker down to "rapid prototype" seven visualization projects over a two-week period.
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  • Neighborhood Boundaries with Flickr Shapefiles

    November 28, 2008  |  Data Sources, Mapping

    Neighborhood Boundaries by Tom Taylor uses Flickr Shapefiles and Yahoo! Geoplanet "to show you where the world thinks its neighbors are." Yahoo! provides access to the Where on Earth (WOE) database, which attempts to describe locations as a hierarchy. For example - a town belongs to a city, a city to a county, a county to a state. The Flickr API stores shape files identified by the WOE ID. Here's the punchline. The shapefiles are built using only the latitude and longitude from geotagged photos on Flickr. There's no GIS involved here.

    Why this matters, I can't really say. I think it's mostly to show how much data is stored in geotagged Flickr photos. I'm no GIS expert though. Anyone care to comment on the significance?

    [Thanks, @couch]

  • Explore Your Feeds in a Cloud of Posts – RSS Voyage

    November 26, 2008  |  Data Art

    I'm not exactly sure what I'm seeing here, but Voyage, by Andy Biggs, is an abstract RSS reader that places posts in a 3D cloud. As you click on items, you can drill down further to later posts. You can also use the up and down keys on the keyboard or the scroll wheel on your mouse. (The latter isn't working for me right now.) For example, press up and you'll see earlier posts from your subscribed feeds. The horizontal placement doesn't seem to have any significance.

    It's probably best to take Voyager for what it is. After all it was just meant to be an experiment in 3D Flash. It's pretty to look at and fun to play with, but not so much about practicality.

    [via can't remember]

  • Visual Guide to the Financial Crisis

    November 25, 2008  |  Infographics

    If you're like most people, you don't really know what's going on with the economy. You know there's something to do with loans and payments and what not, but not much else. Mint (the financial management app) and Wallstats (the guy who does the Death and Taxes poster) put together a "visual guide to the financial crisis" - or a flow chart, rather - to clear up some of those cloudy details. It goes back to 2003 after the dot-com crash up to the recent government bailout.

    [Thanks, Max]

  • Facebook Friend Activity Seen Around the World

    November 24, 2008  |  Mapping

    Palantir, by Jack Lindamood, Kevin Der, and Dan Weatherford of Facebook, visualizes friend activity on Facebook. The three "hacked" together Palantir at Facebook's recent Hackathon, but I'd never guess that it was put together in just one night by looking at it. There are a few different views. One shows activity in the form of towers sprouting up from the ground and another visualizes interactions between Facebook friends with floating arcs and things that look like orbiting comets. The former reminds me of a visualization some Google folks did a while back but with search terms. I can't find a link to it now though (a little help, please?).

    Anyways, the pictures aren't really enough to understand what I'm talking about. Watch the video for more.

    [via TechCrunch | Thanks, John]

  • US Oil Doesn’t Come From Where You Think it Does

    November 21, 2008  |  Data Sources, Mapping

    Where do you think the US imports the most oil from? Most of us would probably say somewhere in the Middle East, but Jon Udell does some number crunching and shows that misconception is false. Canada supplies us with the most oil (according to the US Department of Energy).

    This realization however, isn't the post's punchline. It's how easy it was for Jon to figure this stuff out. With some help from Dabble DB (an app that lets you easily use a database without too much technical fuss), Jon was able to parse the data and map it by region with a few swift clicks.

    We’re really close to the point where non-specialists will be able to find data online, ask questions of it, produce answers that bear on public policy issues, and share those answers online for review and discussion. A few more turns of the crank, and we’ll be there. And not a moment too soon.

    We're gettin' there.

    [Thanks, Tim]

  • Using Data Visualization to Forecast Financial Markets

    November 20, 2008  |  Economics, Statistical Visualization

    This is a guest post by Simit Patel of InformedTrades, which offers free advice on trading stocks.

    While many investors use economic and fundamental factors to identify investment opportunities -- i.e. whether a company has good management and is in a growth industry, or how it will be affected by macroeconomic conditions -- ultimately the price of an asset comes down to two things: supply and demand. The demand for buying vs the demand of selling. By visualizing the movement of price assets, we can gain an understanding of the psychology of the market as a whole, and thus what direction the price will go.
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