Empowering people with visualization
This post was heavily inspired by an article in the Economist magazine which can be found at http://www.economist.com/science/tq/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13725877
I wanted to draw the attention to some of the excellent information from the article and hope that we see many such endeavors.
Maplight.org – Money and Politics: Illuminating the connection
Dan Newman of MAPLight.org, a group based in Berkeley, California that charts the links between politicians and money.
With maps, you can show people how an abstract concept connects to where they live.
Starting in January 2007, it tracked which states (those growing sugar-beets and sugar-cane, it turned out) were making the most generous political donations in the run-up to a vote in July 2007 on subsidies for the sugar industry.
The Grim Reaper’s road map: An atlas of mortality in Britain
by Mary Shaw, Bethan Thomas, George Davey Smith and Daniel Dorling. More information, visualizations and even data can be found at
http://www.sasi.group.shef.ac.uk/publications/reaper.html. Here’s a screenshot from their book.
Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in Columbus, Ohio project- Masstrack.org. This visualization shows the geographical locations of the workforce in innovation sectors in Massachusetts. As can be expected, the concentration in the Boston and Cambridge area is very high as compared to the rest of the state.
Social explorer lets you explore, save and create slidshows of visualizations of the census 2000 data. The first screenshot shows the interface that allows you to interact with the data. The bottom screenshot shows the median age around the New Haven, CT area. Since, New Haven is mostly a college town, the median age being lower than the surrounding counties in Connecticut makes sense.
Ushahidi, which means ”testimony” in Swahili, is a very innovative website that was developed to map user reported violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008. It has already been adapted and used by votereport.in and swineflu.ushahidi.com.
The top two images show Violence and Voter inconsistencies as reported by users. The bottommost image shows Swine Flu cases all over the world. Such field reporting-based visualizations can be invaluable, especially now that a worldwide swine flu pandemic has been declared by the WHO. In a previous post, we have seen different visual representations of the Swine Flu Pandemic.
My favorite quote from the article was “We don’t just want to be about mapping,” says John Kim of Healthy City. “Maps don’t change the world, but people who use maps do.”
I would like to believe that today we can say something like “Visualizations dont change the world, but people who use visualizations do.”
If you have seen other examples of visualizations that have impacted policies, laws or helped draw attention to a problem, please add it in the comments section.