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Posts Tagged ‘data visualization

“Recognize yourself in he and she who are not like you and me”*…

 

As war has ravaged Somalia, its people have continued to flee

new visualization shows the flow of refugees around the world from 2000 to 2015, and makes the lesser-known story in Africa–and in places like Sri Lanka in 2006 or Colombia in 2007–as obvious as what has been happening more recently in Syria. Each yellow dot represents 17 refugees leaving a country, and each red dot represents refugees arriving somewhere else. (The full version of the map, too large to display here, represents every single refugee in the world with a dot.)…

Explore the data (and see an animation) at “Watch The Movements Of Every Refugee On Earth Since The Year 2000.”

Pair with “Who Came to America, and When.”

* Carlos Fuentes

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As we follow the flows, we might spare a thought for Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus, better known simply as Erasmus; he died on this date in 1536.  A Catholic priest, social critic, teacher, translator, and theologian, probably best remembered for his book In Praise of Folly, he was the greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance, the first editor of the New Testament (“Do unto others…”), and an important figure in patristics and classical literature.  Among fellow scholars and philosophers he was– and is– known as the “Prince of the Humanists.”

Portrait of Erasmus of Rotterdam (1523) by Hans Holbein the Younger

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Written by LW

July 12, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion”*…

 

It used to be that we’d see a poorly made graph or a data design goof, laugh it up a bit, and then carry on. At some point though — during this past year especially — it grew more difficult to distinguish a visualization snafu from bias and deliberate misinformation.

Of course, lying with statistics has been a thing for a long time, but charts tend to spread far and wide these days. There’s a lot of them. Some don’t tell the truth. Maybe you glance at it and that’s it, but a simple message sticks and builds. Before you know it, Leonardo DiCaprio spins a top on a table and no one cares if it falls or continues to rotate.

So it’s all the more important now to quickly decide if a graph is telling the truth…

Nathan Yau (Flowing Data) provides a very helpful (and very amusing) guide: “How to Spot Visualization Lies.”

* W. Edwards Deming

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As we key our eyes open, we might send healthy birthday greetings to John Snow; he was born on this date in 1813.  A physician and a leader in the adoption of anaesthesia and medical hygiene, he is considered the father of modern epidemiology, in large measure because of his work in tracing the source of a cholera outbreak in Soho, London, in 1854.  His On the Mode of Communication of Cholera (1849) suggested that cholera was a contagious disease easily transmitted by contaminated water. But the widely-held theory was that diseases are caused by bad air led to his idea being ignored.  Then, in London’s 1854 cholera emergency, he painstakingly correlated individual cholera casualties to the water supply they had used in each case.  He then communicated his results with a map that underlined his point, and ended the deadly epidemic by removing the pump handle of the community water pump that he found to be the culprit.

Snow’s map of cholera cases

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His findings inspired fundamental changes in the water and waste systems of London, which led to similar changes in other cities, and a significant improvement in general public health around the world.  His mode of communicating them contributed to the rise of data visualization.

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Written by LW

March 15, 2017 at 1:01 am

“In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate”*…

 

From electricity, giant telescopes, escalators, diesel turbines, and talking movies, the 1900 World’s Fair promised dazzling technology for the 50 million visitors who flocked to Paris. But among the expo’s 80,000 exhibitions, one comparatively low-tech production from the American contingent demonstrated perhaps the most consequential achievement of that time.

The Exhibit of American Negroes” enshrined the contributions of African Americans to the US economy, just 35 years after slavery was abolished in the US. The showcase within the fair’s Palace of Social Economy featured a gallery of photographs, 350 patents awarded to black inventors, a small statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, 200 books and periodicals by black scholars including an illustrated study by the noted sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois…

The extraordinary works that Du Bois had his students (at [Clark] Atlanta University) create are riveting both for their account of Africa-American life at the turn of the last century and for their remarkable power as infographics.  See them at “Hand-drawn infographics commissioned by W.E.B. Du Bois illuminate how Black Americans lived in the 1900s.”

* Toni Morrison

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As we agree with Ali,** we might send utilitarian birthday greetings to Jeremy Bentham; the author, jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer was born on this date in 1748.  Bentham is considered a founder of modern Utilitarianism (via his own work, and that of students including James Mill and his son, John Stuart Mill); he actively advocated individual and economic freedom, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and the decriminalizing of homosexual acts. He argued for the abolition of slavery and the death penalty, and for the abolition of physical punishment, including that of children.

Bentham was involved in the founding of University College (then, the University of London), the first in England to admit all, regardless of race, creed, or political belief.  On his death, he was dissected as part of a public anatomy lecture– as he specified in his will.  Afterward– again, as Bentham’s will specified– the skeleton and head were preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet called the “Auto-icon”, with the skeleton stuffed out with hay and dressed in Bentham’s clothes.  Bentham had intended the Auto-icon to incorporate his actual head, preserved to resemble its appearance in life.  But experimental efforts at mummification, though technically successful, left the head looking alarmingly macabre, with dried and darkened skin stretched tautly over the skull.  So the Auto-icon was given a wax head, fitted with some of Bentham’s own hair.

It is normally kept on public display at the end of the South Cloisters in the main building of University College.  The real head was displayed in the same case as the Auto-icon for many years, but became the target of repeated student pranks, so is now locked away.

 see a virtual, 360-degree rotatable version here

** “Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.”  – Muhammad Ali

“Representation plus interpretation to develop an idea”*…

 

William Playfair’s trade-balance time-series chart, published in his Commercial and Political Atlas, 1786

We’ve celebrated before the formative contributions of Florence Nightingale to data visualization; as noted then, she was building on the earlier work of William Playfair.  But as as Playfair was pioneering new ways to communicate complex data, he was himself building on prior efforts…

The idea of visualizing data is old: After all, that’s what a map is—a representation of geographic information—and we’ve had maps for about 8,000 years. But it was rare to graph anything other than geography. Only a few examples exist: Around the 11th century, a now-anonymous scribe created a chart of how the planets moved through the sky. By the 18th century, scientists were warming to the idea of arranging knowledge visually. The British polymath Joseph Priestley produced a “Chart of Biography,” plotting the lives of about 2,000 historical figures on a timeline. A picture, he argued, conveyed the information “with more exactness, and in much less time, than it [would take] by reading.”

Still, data visualization was rare because data was rare. That began to change rapidly in the early 19th century, because countries began to collect—and publish—reams of information about their weather, economic activity and population. “For the first time, you could deal with important social issues with hard facts, if you could find a way to analyze it,” says Michael Friendly, a professor of psychology at York University who studies the history of data visualization. “The age of data really began.”

An early innovator was the Scottish inventor and economist William Playfair. As a teenager he apprenticed to James Watt, the Scottish inventor who perfected the steam engine. Playfair was tasked with drawing up patents, which required him to develop excellent drafting and picture-drawing skills. After he left Watt’s lab, Playfair became interested in economics and convinced that he could use his facility for illustration to make data come alive.

“An average political economist would have certainly been able to produce a table for publication, but not necessarily a graph,” notes Ian Spence, a psychologist at the University of Toronto who’s writing a biography of Playfair. Playfair, who understood both data and art, was perfectly positioned to create this new discipline…

The Surprising History of the Infographic.”

* Francesco Franchi, defining inforgraphics

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As we make it clear, we might note that today begins National Canned Luncheon Meat Week, “celebrated” the first week of July each year.

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Picture this…

 

Just one of the entries at WTF Visualizations: “visualizations that make no sense.”

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As we recall that not all pictures signify, we might send well-worded birthday greetings to Samuel Johnson; he was born on this date in 1709.  A poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor, and lexicographer, Johnson’s best-known work was surely  A Dictionary of the English Language, which he published in 1755, after nine years work– and which served as the standard for 150 years (until the completion of the Oxford English Dictionary).  But Dr. Johnson, as he was known, is probably best remembered as the subject of what Walter Jackson Bate noted is “the most famous single work of biographical art in the whole of literature” : James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson.  A famous aphorist, Johnson was the very opposite of a man he described to Boswell in 1784: “He is not only dull himself, but the cause of dullness in others.”

Joshua Reynolds’ portrait of Dr. Johnson

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Written by LW

September 18, 2013 at 1:01 am

Everyone ever in the world…

 

About 10 years ago, Peter Crnokrak gave up his career as a quantitative geneticist, deciding instead to apply his talent for manipulating large data sets to the visualization of life at the human scale.

As Co.Exist observes

His visualizations, created under the nom de data viz of The Luxury of Protest, are both visually stunning and scientifically precise. And, as with his previous genetics research (he was trying to tease out the difference between nature and nurture in our genes), Crnokrak the graphic artist wrestles with enormous, core questions about humanity and history.

His most well-known piece, titled Everyone Ever in the World, tries to capture human history’s cumulative war dead as a proportion of every person who has ever lived since 3000 BC. That piece–meant, like all of his work, to be experienced as a physical installation rather than a JPEG–was honored last year by the journal Science in the National Science Foundation’s International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge.

Crnokrak has also tried to illustrate the quantitative degree to which each of the 192 United Nations member states has contributed to peace and terror in the world. And more recently, he has graphed every known empire, colony, and territorial occupation since 2334 BC. In the resulting visual, individual empires overlap atop each other, revealing ebbs and flows in empire mania over time. That piece is called Never Forever Never for Now. (The titles themselves are meant to carry Crnokrak’s concepts in a poetic way, and he admits to having spent weeks just coming up with Everyone Ever, let alone doing the research for it.)

Explore these pieces and others at Crnokrak’s site; they’re intended to be viewed as physical objects, in person– still, the photos are very compelling.

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As we brood over the big picture, we might note that this date (Don DeLillo’s birthday) was the occasion, in 1805, of the first performance of Beethoven’s only opera (at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien): a work in three acts known then as Leonore— the story of Leonore, who, disguised as a prison guard named “Fidelio,” rescues her husband Florestan from death in a political prison.  Like many of Beethoven’s pieces, the opera was subsequently reworked… in this case, distilled to two acts and retitled Fidelio.

From Beethoven’s manuscript for Leonore/Fidelio

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We might also pause to send consoling birthday greetings to Timothy Evans, who was born on this date in 1924.  Evans was accused in 1950 of murdering his wife and daughter, convicted, and hanged that year.  Throughout his trial, Evans argued his innocence, and  pointed to his downstairs neighbour, John Christie, as the likely culprit.  Three years later Christie was unmasked as a serial killer, and confessed to the murder of Evan’s family.  Evan’s case– its obvious miscarriage of justice– was a major spur to the abolition of capital punishment in the U.K. in 1965.

Evans (center) being escorted by police

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Now see here…

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…

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…and the Crest toothpaste tube, designed for Proctor and Gamble.

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Donald Deskey

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