Posts Tagged ‘Visualization’
It’s tempting to consider information visualization a relatively new field that rose in response to the demands of the Internet generation. “But,” argues Manual Lima in The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge, “as with any domain of knowledge, visualizing is built on a prolonged succession of efforts and events.”
While it’s tempting to look at the recent work, it’s critical we understand the long history. Lima’s stunning book helps, covering the fascinating 800-year history of the seemingly simple tree diagram.
Trees are some of the oldest living things in the world. The sequoias in Northern California, for example, can reach a height of nearly 400 feet, with a trunk diameter of 26 feet and live to more than 3,500 years. “These grandiose, mesmerizing lifeforms are a remarkable example of longevity and stability and, ultimately, are the crowning embodiment of the powerful qualities humans have always associated with trees.”
Such an important part of natural life on earth, tree metaphors have become deeply embedded in the English language, as in the “root” of the problem or “branches” of knowledge. In the Renaissance, the philosophers Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes, for example, used tree diagrams to describe dense classification arrangements. As we shall see, trees really became popular as a method of communicating and changing minds with Charles Darwin…
More on the highly-recommended Farnum Street blog.
* Rodney Dangerfield
As we look to our roots, we might recall that it was on this date in 1955 that Capitol Records released what it claimed to be (and what surely was) the shortest “song” ever recorded. Earlier in the year, Les Paul and Mary Ford has released a single, “Magic Melody,” that concluded with the well-known “shave and a hair cut” musical phrase– sans the traditional “two bits” sting. Disc jockeys around the country complained that the track ended too abruptly, that it left the listener hanging. So Les Paul went back into the studio to record “Magic Melody- Part 2″– which consisted solely of the two “missing” notes. It ran for about one second.
The MIT Media Lab’s Pantheon Project aims to restore some of that knowledge…
You were not born with the ability to fly, cure disease or communicate at long distances, but you were born in a society that endows you with these capacities. These capacities are the result of information that has been generated by humans and that humans have been able to embed in tangible and digital objects.
This information is all around you. It is the way in which the atoms in an airplane are arranged or the way in which your cell-phone whispers dance instructions to electromagnetic waves.
Pantheon is a project celebrating the cultural information that endows our species with these fantastic capacities. To celebrate our global cultural heritage we are compiling, analyzing and visualizing datasets that can help us understand the process of global cultural development. Dive in, visualize, and enjoy…
Readers can lose themselves in Pantheon, exploring the relative cultural output of different regions in specific domains, like innovation:
… or the cultural output across all domains of a particular nation:
… even the overall rankings of individual contributors to culture over time:
There are, as Pantheon’s keepers freely acknowledge, biases built into the methodology; they continue to work to overcome them. Still, it is a fascinating– and altogether absorbing– resource. Check out the rankings engine here; the visualization engine here; and these videos, by way of background:
As we consult the league tables, we might recall that it was on this date in 2010 that the overdue fines on two books checked out but never returned by George Washington from the New York Society Library (the city’s only lender of books at the time of Washington’s presidency) reached $300,000.
The library’s ledgers show that Washington took out the books on October 5, 1789, some five months into his presidency at a time when New York was still the capital. They were an essay on international affairs called Law of Nations and the twelfth volume of a 14-volume collection of debates from the English House of Commons.
“We’re not actively pursuing the overdue fines,” the head librarian Mark Bartlett said at the time. “But we would be very happy if we were able to get the books back.”
This is a comparison of probation vs parole rates by state (plus DC). The data used are from 2011. I expected the two variables to be strongly correlated, but they aren’t. Whether this is influenced by state laws, the behavior of the people, the attitudes of judges, or the leniency of parole boards, I don’t know, though I suspect it is a combination of all of them.
For those wondering about the difference between probation and parole, you can read a detailed description here:http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=qa&iid=324. The most fundamental difference is that parole is a supervised release from jail while probation is a sentencing by a judge that requires supervision of the individual.
What I found most amazing about these data is that 4.6% of Georgia’s population is on probation. If you rule out minors from the population pool, more than 1 in 20 adults is on probation there.
* Mark Twain
As we remind ourselves that, America’s astronomical incarceration rates notwithstanding, crime is a universally human phenomenon, we might recall that on this date in 1965, the infamous British gangsters the Kray Twins were charged with demanding money with menaces in the County of London. Starting in the early 1950, Ronald and Reginald Kray used the cover of night club ownership to build a powerful gang, The Firm, that dealt in extortion, hijacking, armed robbery, arson, and murder. The Kray’s, who had become celebrities– friends of the likes of Frank Sinatra and Diana Dors– by the time of their 1965 arrest, beat that rap. But were convicted of a broader array of offenses in 1968, and imprisoned for (what turned out to be) life.
Still, in 1985 officials at Broadmoor Hospital discovered a business card of Ron’s, which prompted an investigation that revealed the twins – incarcerated at separate institutions – along with their older brother, Charlie, and another accomplice who was not in prison, were operating a lucrative bodyguard and “protection” business, Krayleigh Enterprises, for Hollywood stars– including Sinatra.
Ronnie was ultimately certified insane (paranoid schizophrenic) thus his time at Broadmoor, where he died in 1985. Reg was freed on compassionate grounds in 2000, at age 87, with inoperable bladder cancer; he died 8 weeks later.
Readers know that your correspondent is intrigued (OK, to the point of obsessed) with data visualization. Previous missives have featured hero examples (like this one and this one) and compelling collections (like Flowing Data and Information is Beautiful). Readers will also recall that your correspondent has a soft spot for the periodic table (as, for instance, here, here, or of course here)…
Now, from Visual Literacy, a synthesis of the two– “A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods“:
Mouse over any of the “elements” (on the original) to see to an example of the approach in question. Very helpful… and very cool!
Update to the Periodic Table of Typefaces: From Julian Hansen, a (very amusing) flow chart for picking the type style appropriate to any need. And from Typography for Lawyers… well, precisely that (replete with cautionary examples).
As we remind ourselves that our mothers were right, that appearances do matter, we might lay a particularly elegant wreath for Donald Deskey, who died on this date in 1989. An inventor (e.g., the laminate Weldtex) and designer, Deskey championed Art Deco (he designed Radio City Music Hall, for instance) and probably did more than anyone else to make industrial design a profession (he was a founder of the American Society of Industrial Designers and of its predecessor, the American Union of Decorative Artists and Craftsmen). His impact survives him; among his lasting designs: the goose-necked street lamp that he designed for New York City…
…and the Crest toothpaste tube, designed for Proctor and Gamble.
Tableau De L’Histoire Universelle depuis la Creation jusqu’a ce jour
…a fold-out print depicting all of human history from the time of creation (4693 BC = Adam & Eve; the great flood = 3300 BC) up to the date of publication (1858 by Eug. Pick, Paris). Vignettes of historically significant people, places and buildings etc are arranged along the borders.
Earlier posts (e.g., here and here) will have tipped readers to your correspondent’s weakness for charts and visualizations. A wonderful collection at Bibliodyssey reminds one that interesting infographics have a long and storied history… and that earlier examples can be a mesmerizingly beautiful as their successors…
Tinted drawing showing the comparative lengths of rivers and heights of mountains worldwide. The first text page in this volume has the legend for this sheet.
In: ‘General Atlas Of The World: Containing Upwards Of Seventy Maps…’ by Adam & Charles Black, Sidney Hall and William Hughes, 1854; published in Edinburgh by A & C Black.
See them all at Bibliodyssey’s “Victorian Infographics.”
And for readers who are also listeners to This American Life, may enjoy This American Infographic– a project of E. J. Fox to create a visualization for every episode of that extraordinary series; e.g., Episode 5:
As we chart our progress, we might pause to celebrate a different kind of visualization coup: it was on this date in 1944 that Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat– based on a story by John Steinbeck– premiered at the Astor Theater in New York. Starring the divine Tallulah Bankhead (along with William Bendix and Walter Slezak), Lifeboat was remarkable for confining all action to the space of the small boat awash in the ocean…
and for including the director’s trademark cameo in a newspaper ad for weight loss that one of the characters reads.