is a visualization expert with more than a decade's experience working in both industry and academia.
Visualization as I see it.
Environmental education organization, Globaïa, have prepared two interesting visualizations.
The first is a map of global transportation networks that shows traffic routes by road, air and sea converging on major urban areas.
The second is a collection of charts showing a variety of measures of global human activity. All exhibit a more-or-less exponential growth pattern.
Today I came across an interesting blog post listing 21 Everyday Visualizations. As the title suggests the article lists 21 objects we encounter in everyday life that graphically encode information. The article reminded me that visualization is pervasive; it’s not confined to the digital realm.
The objects identified include calendars, weather maps, traffic lights and scales. The objects represent a fairly small set of visualization primitives:
For the full list visit the Epic. Graph blog. If you can think of any other commonplace visualizations then please suggest them to Mark (the Epic. Graph blogger). I’ve suggested the financial indicators used in business news (TV, print, web) to indicate daily movements in stocks, indices, exchange rates, commodity prices etc.
As a visualization and Linux enthusiast I couldn’t resist drawing attention to The Great Linux World Map published on the Dedoimedo blog. All the main distros are represented with lots of Linux puns and in-jokes.
It reminded me of the maps of Online Communities Randall Munroe has published over the years on his XKCD web comic. Just as Munroe has had to update his maps as the Internet landscape has evolved so too we can look forward to future renditions of the Linux World Map in keeping with the tectonic changes afoot.
The ESA has just announced that their GOCE satellite has collected enough data “to map the Earth’s gravity with unrivalled precision”. Accompanying the press release was the animation (shown above) of the “geoid” model derived from the new data set.
Unfortunately, the animation lacks the most fundamental feature required of all visualizations: a key to help us make sense of what it actually shows!
The text accompanying the animation sheds a little light on the visualization:
The geoid is the surface of an ideal global ocean in the absence of tides and currents, shaped only by gravity.
If I were to hazard a guess, I’d suggest that the visualization shows the earth’s crust, with a height field and colour map applied to it. The latter two possibly encode the strength of the gravitational field and/or the height of the idealized global ocean (the latter being derived from the former).
The point is I shouldn’t have to guess! This important data deserves better treatment.
If you know what the visualization encodes then please leave a comment below.
[ Update: 8 April, 2011 ]
I had this quick response from the ESA regarding interpreting the Geoid visualization:
The colours in the image represent deviations in height (–100 m to +100 m) from an ideal geoid. The blue colours represent low values and the reds/yellows represent high values.
It is claimed that software freedom activist Richard Stallman famously doesn’t own a mobile phone, claiming they present serious privacy concerns. Just how much information do mobile telephone companies obtain from their subscribers? Quite a lot as it turns out.
German Green party politician Malte Spitze sued his mobile phone service provider Deutsche Telekom, who released to him six months worth of his mobile phone data. Spitze then made this available to ZEIT ONLINE, who combined the geolocation data along with Spitze’s Twitter feed, blog postings and other publicly available online information to create an impressive tracker application. The application visualizes Spitze’s movements, activities, phone and SMS messages and web-surfing for the six months from August 31, 2009 – February 28. 2010.
ZEIT ONLINE’s visualization reveals the wealth and fidelity of personal data that our mobile phone carriers collect and retain. Spitze’s data set is also publicly available if you’d like to scrutinise it further or produce your own visualization.
Shortly after the devastating Japanese earthquake on March 18 2011, the New York Times published an excellent series of visualizations showing the quake’s fault plane, magnitude and the predicted tsunami spreading across the Pacific Ocean.
What I found particularly enlightening was the depiction of the fault plane. I’d previously thought of earthquakes as emanating from a point source – the word epicentre reinforces this notion. In fact, the earthquake arose from a section of the North American plate, several hundred miles in length, being thrust upwards by the movement of the Pacific plate beneath it. The epicentre is the focus of the earthquake at which the force is greatest.
Kudos to the New York Times for their enlightening graphics.