Brain Pickings

Hans Rosling for BBC: 200 Countries Over 200 Years in 4 Minutes

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Statistical stuntsman Hans Rosling, mastermind of revolutionary visualization platform Gapminder, is a longtime Brain Pickings darling. From his blockbuster TED talks, better described as performances than mere talks, to his projection of the future of humanity in LEGO, Rosling is easily the most vocal and engaging advocate for data visualization as a sensemaking mechanism for culture and the world.

Now, The Hans strikes again with an absolutely brilliant 4-minute distillation of 200 countries over 200 years, part of BBC’s The Joy of Stats. (An excellent companion to The Beauty of Maps.) With his signature sports commentator style, Rosling narrates two centuries worth of income and life expectancy data in a way he never has before: Using augmented reality animation. To see the impact of historical and political milestones, from colonization to the Industrial Revolution to WWII, in such a visceral way contextualizes these events and their aftermath in a way no history book or verbal storytelling ever could — a living manifesto for the power and importance of data visualization as a storytelling device.

For more on the storytelling and sensemaking art and science of data visualization, the journalistic importance of which we’ve previously examined, we highly recommend Data Flow 2 and Beautiful Data: The Stories Behind Elegant Data Solutions, both of which reference Rosling’s work, among countless other masters of the discipline.

HT @TEDchris

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Yoxi: A Creative Game for Social Change

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How to solve the world’s problems by harnessing human nature.

We’ve already seen how games can increase our productivity and enlist crowd support for causes. Now, a new platform is setting out to apply the principles of gaming to innovation and social change. Yoxi (pronounced YO-see) is a creative competition and a social game, rallying teams of problem-solvers to compete against each other in solving major challenges of our time. The winner walks away with startup funds between $5,000 and $40,000, depending on community votes, and connection opportunities with thought leaders and influencers.

Part OpenIDEO, part Kickstarter, Yoxi enlists two fundamental parts of human nature — the competitive streak and the need for play — in tackling serious and complex issues, starting with reinventing fast food.

Yoxi is essentially a game of strategy. It blends traditional gaming elements like points and levels with traditional social elements like user votes in a model that’s part gaming, part crowdfunding, part collaborative problem-solving. Give it a shot.

Bonus points for an error page that made us smile.

HT @AmritRichmond

In 2010, we spent more than 4,500 hours bringing you Brain Pickings. If you found any joy and inspiration here this year, please consider supporting us with a modest donation — it lets us know we’re doing something right and helps pay the bills.





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Stefan Sagmeister on Sustaining Creativity

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It’s hard not to love celebrated graphic designer and creative provocateur Stefan Sagmeister. In this excellent talk from The 99%, he shares some nuggets of insight on creative habituation, desensitization and how not to take creativity for granted — something that could befall most of us as we do what we do day in and day out, regardless of how much we may enjoy it and how much pride we may take in it.

Both of Sagmeister’s books, Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far and Made You Look, remain absolutely indispensable. Sample the magic below:

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