Posts Tagged ‘infographics’
“A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both”*…
The U.S. Census has long been a lightning rod for controversy. Does it wildly undercount minorities? Wildly overcount minorities? Or—as Michelle Bachmann warned us—is it a liberal plot orchestrated by ACORN?
But no one has ever accused our Census Bureau of being a hotbed of…graphic design. Until now.
A Handsome Atlas celebrates Uncle Sam’s data chops by reproducing three Statistical Atlases from the latter decades of the 19th century…
… you can follow the decline of Charleston, South Carolina, after the Civil War and the sudden ascendency of Milwaukee following the arrival of Miller, Pabst, Schlitz, and Blatz.
Curious footnotes in American history pop up everywhere, as Soma discovered when he spotted an apparent flaw in a U.S. map. “Where Oklahoma should be, we had I.T.,” he says. “It turns out it was Indian Territory. In 1905 the Native Americans who lived there applied for statehood. They wanted to create something called the State of Sequoia. But they were shot down, and two years later Oklahoma was made.”
Together the Atlases show a country emerging from crisis to redefine itself: more urban, diverse, and if you lived in Illinois or Kentucky, substantially more wasted [as illustrated in the chart above]…
The first Statistical Atlas of the United States of America was published in 1874 to coincide with the nation’s centennial. Two of the most stunning Atlases, from 1880 and 1890, were produced by Henry Gannett, who went on to co-found the National Geographic Society. His final Atlas even contains intimations of the Information Age. The 1890 census was the first to use a punch-card tabulating machine devised by Henry Hollerith, whose company would form the foundation of IBM…
In one regard the census has changed dramatically. While the 2000 Census broke down race into 63 categories, a century earlier we came in only five “colors.” The language of these Atlases oozes xenophobia. Maps and charts refer to “natives” and “non-natives.” Non–European Americans are lumped in as “other foreign.” And slave populations are often omitted altogether.
Then there are the “deaf mutes, paupers, and prisoners,” gathered under the heading: “Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes.” Or this antiquated guide to the “insane” of 1870. I mean, who would be insensitive enough to call for a national database of the mentally ill these days?
Read the whole colorful story in Jeffrey Rotter‘s “The Motley Roots of Data Visualization in 19th Century Census Charts.”
* James Madison
As we regret that we haven’t got more fingers and toes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1789 that George Washington became the first and only president to be unanimously elected by the Electoral College, a feat he repeated on the same date in 1792.
Washington’s overwhelming popularity made for a relatively smooth kick-off for the Republic. Still, the electoral system soon began to cause problems. History.com explains:
The peculiarities of early American voting procedure meant that although Washington won unanimous election, he still had a runner-up, John Adams, who served as vice president during both of Washington’s terms. Electors in what is now called the Electoral College named two choices for president. They each cast two ballots without noting a distinction between their choice for president and vice president. Washington was chosen by all of the electors and therefore is considered to have been unanimously elected. Of those also named on the electors’ ballots, Adams had the most votes and became vice president.
Although Washington’s overwhelming popularity prevented problems in 1789 and 1792, this procedure caused great difficulty in the elections of 1796 and 1800. In 1796, Federalist supporters of John Adams cast only one of their two votes in an effort to ensure that Adams would win the presidency without giving votes to any of the other candidates. This led to a situation in which the Federalist Adams won the highest number of votes and became president, but Thomas Jefferson, the opposing Democratic-Republican candidate, came in second and therefore became his opponent’s vice president.
In 1800, the system led to a tie between the Democratic-Republican candidates for president and vice president, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. This sent the vote to the House of Representatives, where Federalists voted for Burr instead of Jefferson, whom they despised. As a result, the Congressional vote ended in a tie 35 times before the Federalists decided to hand in blank ballots and concede the White House to Jefferson.
In 1804, the 12th Amendment to the Constitution ended this particular form of electoral chaos by stipulating that separate votes be cast for president and vice president.
Isotype, the visual language pioneered by Austrian sociologist, philosopher and curator Otto Neurath and his wife Marie in the 1930s, shaped modern infographics and visual storytelling.
America and Britain: Three Volumes in One, also known as Only an Ocean Between, is a wonderful 1946 out-of-print book by P. Sargant Florence and Lella Secor Florence from the golden age of ISOTYPE, kindly digitized by Michael Stoll, presenting a series of minimalist infographics that compare and contrast various aspects of life in Britain and the United States…
As a time-capsule of cultural change and technological progress, the infographics put present-day numbers in perspective, especially in the domains of telecommunication, media, and resource usage.
As we contemplate our “cousins,” we might send judicious birthday greetings to James Delancey; he was born on this date in 1703. A Cambridge-educated English aristocrat, Delancey migrated to the American colonies, settling in Manhattan, where he was appointed Chief Justice by Royal Governor William Cosby.
The times were tense: Eighteenth century American colonists were demanding increased freedom and democracy; many colonial New Yorkers were individualistic entrepreneurs seeking financial success and independence, unwilling quietly to defer to what they viewed as antiquated claims of royal privilege. Proponents of royal rule– including Delancey and Cosby– desperately sought to maintain power in the face of that growing opposition.
Peter Zenger’s New York Weekly Journal, a paper regularly critical of royal privilege, published articles in the early 1730s exposing Governor Cosby’s unjust policies, backroom financial deals, and bullying tactics. A furious Cosby condemned the Journal, had copies of the paper publicly burned, and– to widespread public outrage– imprisoned Zenger for eight months while he awaited trial for seditious libel.
At the trial in 1735– presided over by a decidedly-hostile Delancey– Zenger’s lawyer, Andrew Hamilton (like Zenger a former indentured servant turned successful businessman), aimed his defense at the jury rather than the judge, hoping that a public fearful of royal abuses would condemn Cosby and protect Zenger. Hamilton conceded that Zenger had published articles critical of Cosby but eloquently argued that because the articles contained truths in the form of statements of verifiable facts, they could not be libelous. The jury’s “not guilty” verdict generated spontaneous cheers from the gallery… More importantly the verdict, which created the precedent that truth is a defense against charges of libel, laid the foundation for American press freedom.
As Founding Father Gouverneur Morris said, ”The trial of Zenger in 1735 was the germ of American freedom, the morning star of that liberty which subsequently revolutionized America.”
(More on the trial, its protagonists, and its impact here.)
Susan Schulten understands the way that maps both shape and reflect a nation’s changing sense of itself…and she has a keen eye for the fascinating. A professor of History at the University of Denver and a New York Times blogger, she as devoted herself to exploring the roles that maps in general, and infographics on particular, have played in U.S. history. Indeed, given the ubiquity of infographics on the web, one might conclude that they are relatively modern; but readers will recall that they date back at least as far as the 16th Century; and in the form we know them, back as far as the 19th Century…
Two major developments led to a breakthrough in infographics: advances in lithography and chromolithography, which made it possible to experiment with different types of visual representations, and the availability of vast amounts of data, including from the American Census as well as natural scientists, who faced heaps of information about the natural world, such as daily readings of wind, rainfall, and temperature spanning decades. But such data was really only useful to the extent that it could be rendered in visual form. And this is why innovation in cartography and graphic visualization mattered so greatly…
From maps of disease and the weather to the earliest maps of the national population, this was a period when the very concept of a map was reinvented. By the early twentieth century, maps had become common tools of analysis, communication, and visual representation in an increasingly complex nation…
In Mapping the Nation: History & Cartography in 19th Century America, Schulten “traces the rise of new forms of mapping and graphic knowledge in American life. From statistical mapping to historical atlases, Americans confronted entirely new ways to think about cartography in the nineteenth century.”
As we remember that the map is not the territory, we might recall the emergence of a very different kind of map: it was on this date in 1955 that a young and to-that-point unpublished poet, Allen Ginsberg, organized and held a poetry reading at Six Gallery in San Francisco (also featuring Michael McClure, Philip Lamantia, Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Kenneth Rexroth, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti)– and brought down the house when he read “Howl“ publicly for the first time.
It’s that time again– the Games are underway…
The Olympics promise many things–triumph of the human spirit, amazing athletic prowess, upsets and underdogs–but the most modern games are ultimately nothing if not a massive, global spectacle. Gustavo Sousa, a painter and creative director at Mother’s London office, was interested in exploring behind the pomp and circumstance. “Events like these can be a good time for reflection.” Oceaniaeuropeamericaasiaafrica illustrates stripped-down statistics from each region through simple scale shifts of the tournament’s iconic quintet of overlapping loops.“The rings represent healthy competition and union, but we know the world isn’t perfect. Maybe understanding the differences is the first step to try to make things more equal.”
* “faster, higher, stronger”– the Olympic motto
As we settle in for the marathon, we might recall that it was on this date in 1895 that Louis Lassen served the first “hamburger” sandwich… at least, according to the Library of Congress.
Louis Lassen, founder of Louis’ Lunch, ran a small lunch wagon selling steak sandwiches to local factory workers. Because he didn’t like to waste the excess beef from his daily lunch rush, he ground it up, grilled it, and served it between two slices of bread — and America’s first hamburger was created.
It will not surprise readers to know that there are many other claimants to that singular honor.
Louis Lassen (source)
Simon Raper at Drunks & Lampposts extracted the information in the influenced by section for every philosopher on Wikipedia and used it to construct a network– a picture of whose thought formed whose.
See the full map– and read how one can easily construct one’s own network diagrams– here.
[TotH to The Stone]
As we parse our precedents, we might recall that it was on this date in 1951 that Mrs. Mary Reeser, of St Petersburg, Florida, was the victim of “spontaneous human combustion.” Her landlady took her a telegram, found the doorknob too hot to handle, and phoned for help. Firemen discovered a blackened circle on the floors, a few coiled springs, a charred liver, a backbone fragment, a skull shrunk to size of a fist, and a black slipper enclosing a left foot burnt off at the ankle. Despite the temperature necessary to cremate a body, the rest of the apartment was virtually untouched.