Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘data visualization’

13 MARCH, 2009

The World of 100: Our Global Village

By:

The real minority report, or what the world would look like if it were a village of 100.

From data visualization to infographics, we’re big on the power of smart graphic design to convey big concepts that are otherwise hard to grasp in their raw numberness. Which is why we love designer Toby Ng‘s poster series The World of 100 — an experimental graphical representation of statistical information about the world, based on the allegorical scenario of reducing the world to a village of 100 people.

The series is pure design crispness — simple vectors make the shapes clean enough to make their point, with vibrant, solid colors making those points all the more visceral and impactful.

In a weird way, we were the most shocked by the least consequential ones, our daily entitlements that we take for granted — somehow, PSA’s and the general sense of social responsibility have made most of us aware of severe problems like hunger, deadly disease, and the lack of clean drinking water. But computers? Not something we’d given much thought to, and yet:

We wish we could show you the actual posters — some of the web images are too small to read the text, which is a pity as the information is nothing short of humbling. For instance, in our proverbial village of 100:

48 can’t speak, act according to their faith and conscience due to harassment, imprisonment, torture or death.

And some of it, although common knowledge, makes some of our societal ironies particularly salient. Like the notion of “minorities” — in public policy, in employment recruiting, in education quotas. It’s never been this evident that the ratios of power are not contingent upon the ratios of numbers.

Check out all 20 posters here. And enjoy that computer of yours — the other 93 villagers can’t.

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount.





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

12 MARCH, 2009

Accidents: The Abstract Art of Data Visualization Goofs

By:

What New York City homicide rates have to do with Beijing circa 1917 and Twitter.

We’re the first to admit our recent data viz obsession has gotten out of hand. So, before we bow to data visualization as the be-all-end-all that will save the world and do your laundry in the process, we’re taking a step back with a look at its imperfections.

Enter New York Times graphics editor Matthew Bloch‘s series Accidents — a collection of data visualization goofs and bloopers that happened while he was working on maps and other graphics.

So what if we happen to find them charming.

They make absolutely no sense, represent nothing whatsoever, and have no bearing on any statistical relationship. But they are accidental art at its most viscerally supreme.

Some of the images were eventually debugged to produce the intended data visualizations for the actual The New York Times. (Matthew’s real work is admittedly fantastic — from the most tweeted words during the Super Bowl, to a timeline of space exploration.)

But we love the idea that data can take on a life of its own, deviating from its intended purpose to produce accidental abstractions — perhaps a new breed of art that we can call metamodernism?

via @BBHLabs

05 MARCH, 2009

Sign of The Times: Data Visualization Heaven

By:

158 years of the cultural dialog, replayed and rewritten in visual language.

Newspapers have long been a paradise of visual information — from the early 20th century isotype language pioneered by Otto Neurath, to the elaborate vintage infographics we so love. So imagine our excitement when The New York Times announced Times Open last week, an open API initiative encouraging the development of applications around The Times‘ enormous vault of data.

If you swim in the shallow end of the geek pool, fear not: Here’s the Cliff’s Notes on API — it stands for application programing interface and is pretty much what shapes the behavior of one application as it interacts with others. For example, a WordPress plugin that displays your latest tweets on your blog uses the Twitter API to work the magic.

But what makes the NYT development particularly important is that the API opens up data from the paper’s entire 158-year archive — from the Civil War to the moon landing to the latest Radiohead album reviews — allowing developers and artists alike to do just about anything with it.

And they already are.

Vancouver-based generative software artist Jer Thorp has done a series of visualizations exploring the social conversation around certain terms as reflected in The Times over the last 27 years.

From the gossip on sex and scandal, to a face-off between the most iconic superheroes, to the increasing anxiety about global warming, the series is a visual documentary of our collective concern over issues big and small, the kind of mundane chatter and momentous movements that define a culture.

San Diego artist and developer Tim Schwartz is digging even deeper with visualizations of history that use The New York Times’ entire 158-year corpus of data. His interface plots terms over time, exploring how the cultural dialog has changed as our society evolves. It’s amazing to think some of our cultural givens were virtually nonexistent less than a century ago — like, for example, homosexuality, practically unspoken about publicly until the 70’s.

But perhaps most fascinating is how this changes and almost reverses the relationship between newspapers and data visualization — traditionally, infographics in publishing are visual representations of extraneous information that complements the newspaper’s depiction of the outside world, its message. This — the visualization of meta-data about the newspaper itself — is pretty much the opposite, an introspective analysis of the medium as it shapes the message.

If you find yourself intrigued by and drawn to this world of data visualization, do check out this excellent introduction to it, a wonderful find by our friends at BBH Labs.

via Nieman Journalism Lab