is a visualization expert with more than a decade's experience working in both industry and academia.
Visualization as I see it.
Upon news of Osama bin Laden’s death Twitter recorded the highest sustained rate of tweets in its history. They provided the annotated chart shown above in which the number of tweets per second exceeds 3000 for more than one and a half hours.
In the days that followed the public response has run the full gamut of emotions from wild rejoicing to deep sorrow, and I’ve found myself wondering what the prevailing mood of the population has been. The New York Times has attempted to answer this question at least with regard to its readership. They asked their readers:
Was his death significant in our war against terror? And do you have a negative or positive view of this event?
and 13,864 of them responded by plotting their answers on a graph and leaving a comment. The graph is shown below; each dot represents a comment. I couldn’t find any information regarding what the colour of each dot represents but I suspect it’s the number of respondents who clicked in that spot – the darker the colour the larger the number of clicks.
The chart is interactive allowing you to browse the respondents’ comments. You can see that the positive & significant quadrant received the most responses. There’s also a strong correlation between responses to the two questions (see the x = y cluster). I can also see clusters of responses that represent strongly held positions: these lie in the corners of the chart and at the extremes of each axis.
There’s a long-running debate in the visualization community regarding the value of aesthetics to visualization. For some, aesthetics or “eye candy” is considered a triumph of style over substance or form over function that serves only to confound understanding. At the other extreme is the camp who believe that “ugly” visualizations are valueless. Much of this opinion has little evidential support but that might be about to change.
A group of visualization researchers is conducting a user study to assess the impact of aesthetics on visualization. The more people who participate the stronger study’s conclustions will be. The study end soon, so if you haven’t already done so, please participate.
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.