The debate – what is the main aim of data visualisation?I’m continuing to be interested in what seems to be an ongoing debate in the visualisation blogging community with regard to whether data visualisation should always be underpinned by story-telling. It’s an intriguing debate:
- There’s a big set of data and the analyst’s goal is to find the insights and present them in such a way that the audience can immediately see exactly what the story is (as Cole Nusshammer demonstrates admirably here).
- There’s a big set of data which can tell a hundred stories, a world of information about an organisation, a problem, customer behaviour … and the analyst’s goal is to provide the audience with the tools they need to ask their own questions of the data and be able to swiftly draw their own conclusions for discussion amongst themselves.
This month I’ve got some articles which represent both sides of this discussion.
Swiss mapsOn the story side, Interactive Things spent a month last summer creating daily maps of Switzerland. Each map is slightly different, each showing something else about Switzerland, including the kind of cars people drive, political sentiment, migration between cantons. Clicking through to the maps allows some level of interactivity and provides a link to more information about the maps … but you’d need to be able to read German for the latter to help.
US political sentiment formationA data world prompted by this scientific paper, allows you to explore how political sentiment was formed in the United States, based on events at different times of an individual’s life. The quick insight is that people are more influenced by events between the ages of 18 and 24, but this isn’t perhaps immediately obvious from this interactive chart by the NY Times. There’s plenty of exploration and thought possible. Scroll down the screen for some discussion of possible stories and an explanation of how the chart is to be read.
UK commutersThe Office of National Statistics has combined story-telling with a world of data in this interactive map, shown on the Guardian datablog. If you read through the intro you’ll be able to see some of the stories which they are suggesting, but really this allows you to explore the parts of the UK that interest you. (If indeed, any do?) Where do people commute from and to? How many?
And finally …I’m including this picture here, because I like it. It’s so true.
Colour is important, the same picture in different colours can have a completely different interpretation. Is it a shark? Is it an iceberg? Could it be a piece of cheese?