Virgil Griffith has created a series of graphs called Books that Make You Dumb. He correlates top books on FaceBook by school and the corresponding schools' average SAT scores. Notice Freakonomics is pretty far to the right. Nice.
The graphs are of course aren't really that statistical nor are they especially beautiful, but hey, just take it for what is it, and it's kind of amusing. Plus, it's a good example of how you can use data from different sources to find something interesting.
The thing about data is that it can be very convincing. Maybe it's because it's so hard to argue against numbers, or maybe it's just that there's so much of it. In any case, here's six datasets that undoubtedly changed the way some people behave or showed us something that brought about a different way of thinking about things. Continue Reading
Warning: Tangent ahead, but I promise, there's a point.
About a year ago, I went to my 6-month teeth checkup, and the dentist told me that I had a cavity on the bottom back left and another on the bottom back right. Since I was about two years overdue for a checkup (and didn't floss every day), I wasn't surprised.
One week later, I was back to get my fillings. I sat down in that terrifying chair that looks like something aliens use to probe specimens. The drilling began.
My teeth are really sensitive, so no matter how many shots of novocaine she injected (3 or 4), I still felt pain. Here's how it went with the first filling. She drilled. I winced. She stopped. We took a short 1-minute break. She drilled. I winced. We took a break.
We went on like that for about 20 minutes -- all the while she kept telling me it was a tiny cavity and that it shouldn't hurt. Yeah, OK, whatever. Maybe if she actually stuck the needle in the nerve and not just some random place in my gums, it would have worked.
Anyways, she finally finished and suggested we put off the second filling until the next visit in six months. I thought to myself, "Uh, won't my cavity just get worse in 6 months??" I was in enough pain already though (with beads of sweat to prove it) so I agreed despite my concerns.
There's a nice real-time (?) map on (suit)men Entertainment. Click the black rectangle on the bottom left-hand corner to see the entire map. Supposedly the map is powered by Google, so I want to say it's showing search data or something of that sort. To be honest though, I have no clue.
Whenever a number pops up, there's a line that connects some country to Japan (the site's origin), so I'm guessing they're mapping something like accesses to the (suit)men site from whatever country. Oh well, no matter. Look how pretty. It's entertainment, and it managed to entertain me for a good few minutes (which says alot with my short attention span :). Does anyone know what they're showing?
On We Make Money Not Art is a summary of Jose-Luis's talk on some of the history of visualizing data and some more modern pieces.
It begins with Charles Joseph Minard's march of Napoleon and then onto John Snow's cholera map, both of which were made ever so popular by Tufte. By now, if you've cracked open an infovis book, you've seen both.
Moving on to more modern stuff, there's The Dumpster, 10x10, Listening Post among some other interesting pieces. If you're new to visualization, it's a good "intro to vis" post. If you've been around for a while, you've probably seen most of the examples, but there might be a couple you haven't.
This graphic is from The New York Times graphics department. It matches the FlowingData colors. That is all. Oh, and it's excellent, but that's a given, right? Note the use of each bar's two dimensions.
Information visualization has often focused on providing deep insight for expert user populations and on techniques for amplifying cognition through complicated interactive visual models. This paper proposes a new subdomain for infovis research that complements the focus on analytic tasks and expert use. Instead of work-related and analytically driven infovis, we propose Casual Information Visualization (or Casual Infovis) as a complement to more traditional infovis domains. Traditional infovis systems, techniques, and methods do not easily lend themselves to the broad range of user populations, from expert to novices, or from work tasks to more everyday situations.
Jonathan Corum and Farhana Hossain created a network visualization that shows readers who has spoken about who in presidential debates. Scroll over each candidate name to isolate the connections; important/interesting points are highlighted. Candidates are colored blue and red for their respective political parties.
There are three main things that this thing shows -- who has spoken about who (lines), who has been talking the most (circle segments), and finally, attention by party (red and blue). In usual fashion, The New York Times churns out another beautiful graphic. Not only is the visualization attractive, but unlike so many network diagrams before it, this graphic is also useful and informative.
Noah Kalina took a picture of himself every day for six years (and still going); above is all of the pictures put together into a time lapse. Now that's diligence.
When I was collecting my own step data with a pedometer, I would constantly forget, and eventually, I just got bored with it. I think my interest faded because collecting one number per day wasn't satisfying enough. This on the other hand, seems more personal, it takes a little less effort, and it only takes a second to take a picture, and like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. String them together and you get a story. Continue Reading
Time Magazine's multimedia section has a fun, little piece showing some statistics for a day in the life of the average American. There's some mapping for average commute time, annual traffic delays, and city population shifts. I'm not a huge fan of the map on the third dimension, but oh well.
There's also a simple grid ranking jobs by level of happiness. Priests are apparently the happiest with gas station attendants at the very bottom. Poor gas station attendants. I guess I might classify myself as a computer programmer which is somewhere in between waiters and dress makers. Maybe I should consider a change in focus. Although, I could also consider myself an engineer which is towards the top of the rankings. Alright, I'm an engineer. The title of "computer programmer" has a weird stigma attached to it anyways.
After two weeks at Visualizar, I'm back in the United States. It's good to be back. I don't know how many people know this (because I certainly didn't), but the people in Madrid (or all of Spain?) eat a ridiculous number of sandwiches. I spoke to a couple of locals who said it's pretty common to eat two sandwiches a day every day. I'm all sandwiched out.
Anyways, the Visualizar symposium / workshop was a lot of fun, really interesting, and I ended up learning a lot more than I expected from some incredibly talented people. During my two weeks, I had the opportunity to work with designers Miguel Cabanzo, Iman Moradi, and Monica Sanchez and we managed to build a visualization framework that shows migration data with economic indicators. We call the piece humanflows.
Human Flows, the Piece
I just tried putting humanflows online, but of course it's not working on my server right now (because all computers are against me), so I settled for a couple of screencasts. You'll just have to take my word for it that the whole thing came together really nicely with a kiosk-looking type setup and a designer's touch (three of them, actually). The visualization itself was done in Processing.
Here's the first one that just shows the flows. Right off bat, you can see the huge rush to the United States (especially immigrants from Mexico).
This one shows the flows with unemployment rate.
We also did one with GDP, but you get the idea.
Of course, now that we have a framework, there's so many other things that I can think of adding. Functionality like specific country selection and the ability to browse through other indicators would really allow some serious data exploration and since we were working with data form the United Nations Common Database, which has a hundreds of publicly available datasets, there's a lot to work with.
So there it is. Humanflows.
Through the development process, I learned a lot about what I can do with Processing as well as gained an entirely different perspective on data visualization -- a designer's perspective. Simple concepts like color and more complex ideas like how to approach a large dataset are some of the things that I learned that I think are important for statisticians and the more technically-involved data people to know. I'll cover that stuff in later posts though.
For now, I'd appreciate any comments on our visualization and any ideas on how to improve it. How would you visualize migration data?
I was about to click away, but then I saw movement on the map. In addition to recent incidents, the map also has police unit tracking. You can see where certain units are at any given time as well as a video feed. That's pretty cool. However, it doesn't seem live, because every car is Officer Heinz, every car shows the same video, and the timestamp on the video shows November 2004. I guess it's just a demo or prototype right now.
How cool would it be if that were live though? I can imagine plasma screens on the walls of every gang's central control station. Crime could be transformed forever.
Every day during the summer I walked past "Moveable Type" in The New York Times lobby. Since my adviser was one of the people working on it, I had the privilege to see it up close before the actual opening.
The picture is nice, but it's nothing like standing there and experiencing the news. It's especially nice to be in the middle of the two walls of panels (there's a panel behind the photographer) and you get bits and pieces of the day's paper and archive coming at you visually and um, auditorily. These bits and pieces are coming parsed from the paper in an intelligent (statistical) way. Listen to the NPR clip below to find out more. There's also a video on The Times page.
Really, really great. Or as my adviser would say, "so sexy." If you're ever in the area, you should definitely take a look.
Many Eyes now has more detailed mapping functionality with the help of ESRI data. It was really only a matter of time before this happened. It's come to the point where I almost instantly think ESRI when I think maps--that and The Times maps department (who frequently uses ESRI data :). Anyways, this is pretty nice looking stuff. They've got bubbles, color coding, and multiple maps in matrix form (to compare).
I didn't get a chance to look at the maps in depth, but one thing that I noticed is that the region bubbles are only labeled if they're at least a certain size. If they're smaller than that threshold, then it's just the bubble. I'm not sure what the threshold is, but I feel that it could be a bit lower so that more labeling can happen.
There's also (of course) zoom-in, zoom-out, and panning-- features we have come to expect from online mapping applications. Zoom and pan gets a little sluggish when there are multiple maps, but the feature still feels pretty useful.
While on the topic of maps here's a Microsoft Virtual Earth mashup -- US Demographics Visualizer. It allows the user to map US census data by county. Map population, age, ethnicity, election results, and income. It's not quite as responsive as the Competitive Edge Explorer, but if you're looking to explore country-wide census data, then it's worth taking a look at.
Despite being surrounded with ads, this money clock was kind of, um, interesting. Put in how much you earn hourly, monthly, or annually, and it displays a running clock of dollars and cents for how much you've earned while watching the clock. It was amusing at first, and then kind of depressing after a few seconds.
The Competitive Edge Explorer is a mapping project from the MIT Laboratory for Mobile Learning. It's not just some hodge podge Google Maps mashup. The Explorer was written in Processing and has an intuitive and responsive user interface. As the user switches through datasets or zooms in and out, the map changes instantly. A total of eight datasets, including education, income levels, and housing costs, are available and can be selected at the same time to compare different areas according to different variables. The Explorer is yet another example for how maps offer the user a familiar visualization (just like timelines) for data.
It would be especially cool if the Explorer was not just for Boston, but for the entire U.S. or even better, the world. Of course, finding that much data seems impossible now, but hey, it doesn't hurt to hope.
While so much of today's media is taking up our space, dumbing us down, and impeding our productivity, GOOD exists to add value. Through a print magazine, feature and documentary films, original multimedia content and local events, GOOD is providing a platform for the ideas, people, and businesses that are driving change in the world.
My favorite part of the magazine is the transparency section, which is a series of graphics displaying data in one way or another. The graphic (or video, I guess) above shows what companies are paying to advertise in New York City. The Walmart graphic I talked about earlier is in the most recent GOOD.
What if instead of just a section, there was an entire magazine that was a transparency section? Now that would be awesome. It could be a mix of the media & design in GOOD with some real statistical graphics. It would be a complete visual experience with of course a short blurb on each, but the magazine would focus on the graphics to inspire change and improve awareness. (Picture good. Words.... baaaad.)
Each issue would hover around a specific theme like the environment or economics; or even better, each issue could be more specific covering U.S. pollution or the decline of toy sales. I wonder how hard it would be to start something like that. Online first, print second? Is there a magazine already like this? If there isn't, there needs to be.
Icastic has a fun (and growing) collection of (currently) 247 hand-drawings from contributors who have shown how they see time. Some are very detailed works of art while others are concise sketches. From words, objects, to people, the collection is a nice spectrum of imagination.