Some Beatles are more equal than others, or why there’s no yellow in Yellow Submarine.
We love data visualization. And we love The Beatles. Naturally, we’re all over New-York-based designer Michael Deal‘s Charting The Beatles project — an infographic exploration of the life and music of the iconic rockers, from sales statistics to personal biographies to songwriting contributions within the band.
Deal envisioned the project as a collaborative one, so there’s a Flickr pool where others can contribute their Beatles-charting exploits. There, you can find gems like Kristen E. Long’s rather convincing visual argument for The Beatles’ superior popularity over Jesus.
Besides the incredibly detailed and scholarly data revealing anything from common Beatles wisdom to little-known factoids (Did you know Ringo Starr only ever collaborated on two songs, “Dig It” and “Flying,” and “Octopus’s Garden” was the only track he wrote entirely by himself?), the project bespeaks the very richness and expanse of The Beatles’ music-turned-movement.
Charting The Beatles is the hipster answer to Christian Swinehart’s wonderfully geeky infographic dissection of Choose Your Own Adventure books. And between the richness of factual detail and the universal cultural resonance of the subject matter, it’s among the most delightful visualization projects we’ve come across in quite some time.
How to give and own at the same time, or why Facebook is the new Peace Core.
In an ideal world, an invisible hand would be balancing the supply-demand ratio of help for humanity’s problems. The world, however, is far from ideal and we’re faced with more challenges than help is readily available for. And when help does present itself, it’s mostly in the form of donations — which often lack the immediacy of more hands-on approaches that give the help-giver a sense of ownership over the problem, in turn infecting the helpee with this we-can-solve-it resolve and unleashing a chain reaction of empowerment.
That’s exactly the kind of thinking that inspired Pencils of Promise — a powerful grassroots movement that seeks to solve the global education crisis from the bottom up and inside out. The nonprofit is 100% volunteer and its primary goal is to build schools and related facilites across the developing world, but it also embodies something we celebrate here at Brain Pickings — the cross-pollination of skills and perspectives — by empowering people to contribute whatever they are best at and cover different facets of the problem, rather than merely making impersonal and distanced donations.
The project began in 2008, when founder Adam Braun, fresh out of college himself, set out to build a single school in Laos. He put $25 into a bank account and asked friends to contribute however much they could. Little did he anticipate that in a little over a year, they would’ve raised $200,000 through the donations of thousands of individuals and over 150 volunteers would’ve joined the movement.
Our biggest commitment is to sustainability, which means PoP schools aren’t gifted but instead created by the community itself. The entire village helps builds their own school, leading to true ownership and a lasting commitment to their children’s educational future. ~ Adam Braun, Founder, Executive Director
Granted, as much as we’d want to, not all of us can drop our responsibilities and head East to build schools. But here’s how you can help:
To sweeten the deal, Pencils of Promise is also using a voting system to decide which country to build schools in next — a little something they call “democratic social giving.” And in light of last week’s Haiti colossal earthquake disaster, PoP have just vouched to donate at least $100,000 towards youth-oriented initiatives in Haiti if they win the $1MM grant — a massive gesture of karmic kindness.
So go ahead and cast your vote for PoP in the Chase competition before Friday, when the voting closes — it’s a small effort on your part that can have momentous impact on entire communities. Which certainly beats another mindless round of FarmVille.
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Data-washing, why designers are not to be messed with, and how seeing really is believing.
It’s no secret we’re big proponents of data visualization as an effective and intuitive tool for making sense of the increasing amount of information we’re being bombarded with. But beyond its clarifying, sense-making powers, data viz also has the incredible capacity to frame concepts and package ideas in very controlled ways — which can be a good thing when trying to succinctly communicate overwhelming information about, say, the housing crisis, but it can also be rather questionable when used to manipulate people’s understanding of an issue.
This excellent short talk by TargetPoint’s VP and Director of Research, Alex Lundry, at Ignite DC explains why we naturally gravitate to visual communication channels and what power data viz holds as a vehicle for subjective messaging in political communication.
Vision is our most dominant sense. It takes up 50% of our brain’s resources. And despite the visual nature of text, pictures are actually a superior and more efficient delivery mechanism for information. In neurology, this is called the ‘pictorial superiority effect’ [...] If I present information to you orally, you’ll probably only remember about 10% 72 hours after exposure, but if I add a picture, recall soars to 65%. So we are hard-wired to find visualization more compelling than a spreadsheet, a speech of a memo.
So if there’s one takeaway for your day-to-day here, be wary of what we like to call data-washing — the selective and manipulated framing of information aimed at steering your understanding of it in a specific direction. When things are this visual, it’s all the harder to look for the “fine print” — but more often than not, there is one.
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