Posts Tagged ‘infographics’
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
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.
** “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
The first issue of National Geographic magazine, published in October 1888, was vastly different to the magazine we know today. It contained no photographs or illustrations. The cover was brown, with just the title and symbol of the National Geographic Society.
The following year, the magazine published a four-color foldout map, the first step towards the all-color charts and diagrams that have since become synonymous with National Geographic. “We’re in the business of using art to explain,” Kaitlin Yarnall, Deputy Creative Director, explains…
Since then, National Geographic has become renowned for the infographics it uses to break down complex information…
More background– and beautiful examples– at “See the Most Captivating Infographics of the Last Century.”
* … and its variants: a supposed Chinese (or Japanese) proverb, actually coined by Frank Bernard in the early 20th century
As we show instead of tell, we might send adventurous birthday greetings to Gerald “Gerry” Malcolm Durrell; he was born on this date in 1925. A British naturalist, zookeeper, conservationist, author, and television presenter, most of his work was rooted in his life as an animal collector and enthusiast… though he is probably most widely known for his autobiographical book My Family and Other Animals and its successors, Birds, Beasts, and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods... which have been made into television and radio mini-series many times, most recently as ITV’s/PBS’s The Durrells.
… and so it becomes the subject of art.
A year ago, local artist Elle Luna challenged artists from around the world with her “100-Day Project,” an idea with a simple premise: do the same thing every day for a hundred days — draw a doodle, write a poem, whatever — and document the results.
San Francisco–based designer Katrina McHugh responded by making infographics based on popular song lyrics that reference the natural world, mirroring the style of vintage encyclopedias she inherited from her grandfather. The project, titled “100 Days of Lyrical Natural Sciences,” is a gorgeous and hilarious exercise in taking metaphor too literally…
Try your hand at identifying the songs in question at “Classic Pop Songs, Reimagined as Infographics.”
* Brian Wilson
As we tap our toes, we might spare a thought for Cabell “Cab” Calloway III; he died on this date in 1994. A master of scat singing and led one of the United States’ most popular big bands from the start of the 1930s to the late 1940s, regularly performing at the Cotton Club in Harlem. His band featured performers including trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Adolphus “Doc” Cheatham, saxophonists Ben Webster and Leon “Chu” Berry, New Orleans guitar ace Danny Barker, and bassist Milt Hinton. His “Minnie the Moocher” was the first jazz record to sell 1 million copies.
“Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid”*…
On a theme we’ve visited before, an interactive map of the influences at play in the development of the musical genres we enjoy, from the general…
… to the specific…
… with navigational aids and background, to boot.
* Frank Zappa
As we hum along, we might recall that it was on this date in 1966 that The Shangri-Las, Johnny Tillotson, and “Many More”– including a band called “the Castiles” (which featured vocalist Bruce Springsteen) performed at the Surf ‘n See Club in Seabright, New Jersey.
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…
* Francesco Franchi, defining inforgraphics
As we make it clear, we might note that today begins National Canned Luncheon Meat Week, “celebrated” the first week of July each year.
“Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle. This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future”*…
From MIT’s Media Lab and it Pantheon Project, an interactive mapping tool that let’s one visualize the history of cultural production.
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.
Pantheon allows one to select a time period, then see the results sorted by place of origin (as in the chart above) or by profession, and provides a ranked listing of people.
It’s all fascinating, but the “professional” sort is especially telling, as Kottke observes:
Up until the Renaissance, the most well-known people in the world were mostly politicians and religious figures, with some writers and philosophers thrown in for good measure. Starting with the Renaissance through the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, politicians, writers, painters, and composers become more prominent. For the past 50 years, athletes and entertainers dominate the list, with footballers making up almost a third of the most known. (If you only go back to 1990, actors dominate.)
Politicians rate slightly behind tennis players (but ahead of pornographic actors) and religious figures are not represented in the graph at all.
* Albert Camus,
As we put down the remote control and pick up a book, we might send tasty birthday greetings to the culinary genius behind green eggs and ham, Theodor Seuss Geisel, AKA “Dr. Seuss”; he was born on this date in 1904. After a fascinating series of early-career explorations, Geisel settled on a style that created what turned out to be the perfect “gateway drug” to book addiction for generations of young readers.
The more that you read,
The more things you will know.
The more that you learn,
The more places you’ll go.
– I Can Read With My Eyes Shut! (1978)