homeaboutarchives + tagsshopmembership!
aboutarchivesshopmembership!
aboutarchivesmembers!

kottke.org posts about infoviz

Physical Data Visualizations

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2019

For almost as long as we’ve had civilization, people have been making data visualizations.1 The availability of paper and screens has exploded their creation in the last few hundred years, but the earliest visualizations were made from physical objects. This list contains more than 300 examples of physical visualizations and related artifacts and is absolutely fascinating (the older artifacts in particular). Take these stick charts from the Marshall Islands for example:

Marshall Islands Stick Map

These physical visualizations show ocean swell patterns, and were built by native Micronesians from the Marshall Islands to facilitate canoe navigation. They were memorized before trips. The Western world remained unaware of the existence of these artifacts until 1862.

The photo above is a stick chart from 1974. Straight sticks represent regular currents and waves, curved sticks represent ocean swells, and seashells represent atolls and islands.

And Yakama time balls:

Yakama Time Ball

Women from the Yakama Native American tribe used strings of hemp as personal diaries. Each major event in their life was represented by a knot, a bead or a shell. This mnemonic device is called an Ititamat, or counting-the-days ball, or simply time ball.

A young woman would use a time ball to record her courtship, marriage, and other experiences using a system of knots and beads that only she could decipher. As she grew older, a woman might have several time balls with which to share her life story or keep those memories private. When she passed on, they were buried with her.

The ball of twine grew in size as time passed and as events occurred. The women would sometimes divide the twine into 25-year lengths to make it more manageable. When the women were very old, they could use the knots and beads of their time balls to recall not only what happened in their lives but when the events occurred. They could easily recount when their children were born, when they moved away, and other major experiences.

You can read more about stick maps in the Smithsonian magazine and more about time balls at the Realm of the Lone Grey Squirrel.

  1. And visualizations probably enabled civilization. Or is it the other way around?

America Is Becoming Steadily Less Religious

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 29, 2019

According to new data from the General Social Survey, the number of Americans who answered “no religion” in response to the question “What is your religious tradition?” is now greater than those who identify as Catholics or evangelical Christians. Ryan Burge shared this graph of the trends from the past 50 years:

No Religion Trend

The “no religion” trend has been growing steadily since 1991. But as this piece notes, it’s tough to tell exactly why people are answering the question that way.

Even then, those who claim “no religion” are not inherently atheists or agnostics: A 2017 Pew Research survey found that only 22 percent of “nones” listed not believing in God as the most important reason for their lack of religious affiliation.

(via @heif)

A Phonetic Map of the Human Mouth

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 22, 2019

This infographic from Language Base Camp shows where the sounds that English speakers use are produced in the mouth and throat.

A Phonetic Map of the Human Mouth

I’ve had zero voice training in my life, so it was really illuminating to speak all of the different sounds while paying close attention to where in my mouth they were happening. Try it!

Update: And after pronouncing the sounds yourself, take a few minutes to play around with Pink Trombone. Fun! (via @pixelcult)

Movie Color Palettes

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 26, 2019

A site called The Colors of Motion makes single image timelines of the use of colors in movies. They sample frames at regular intervals, choose the average color of each frame, and stack them up. Here’s their representation of Blade Runner 2049:

Color Motion Br 2049

If you click through on specific films, you can see the actual screencaps used for sampling and buy prints.

The Moviebarcode Tumblr pre-dates The Colors of Motion, although they appear to use a slightly different technique: each scene is smooshed into a single vertical line. Here’s Mad Max: Fury Road:

Movie Bar Codes Mad Max

Prints are available from Moviebarcode as well.

See also Brendan Dawes’ Cinema Redux and Wes Anderson Palettes.

Wind Speeds Hit 171 MPH Atop Mount Washington Yesterday

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 26, 2019

As you can see on the US wind map, it’s been blustery in New England for the past couple of days. Yesterday the observatory atop Mount Washington in New Hampshire recorded a wind gust of 171 mph, the fastest gust ever recorded there in the month of February. This is what yesterday’s “Hays Chart” looked like:

Mt Washington Wind Chart

While it’s more that 50 mph slower than the 1934 record of 231 mph (!!), a look at the historical record shows that it’s one of the strongest winds ever recorded there and the strongest one since 1985.

While the observatory building itself is rated for winds up to 300 mph, humans venturing out at that speed might blow away. Here’s what a person battling 70-100 mph winds looks like:

On Instagram, someone at the observatory said of last night’s winds:

We could absolutely hear the winds yesterday! Sounded like a constant rumble similar to an earthquake. At the height of the storm our coffee mugs were shaking across the table and our bullet proof windows were constantly flexing back and forth.

(thx, meg)

The Celebrity Name Spelling Test

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 26, 2019

Last month, I wrote about Colin Morris’ flow diagrams that show how people most frequently misspell difficult words. The crew over at The Pudding turned this into an interactive feature where you can test your spelling of the names of celebrities like football player & activist Colin K., actor & comedian Zach G., and musician Alanis M. As you type, you get a flow diagram of your letter choices compared to everyone else’s. Here’s my diagram for Zach G., which only 15% of people got correct (with the correct spelling blocked out):

Zach Misspell

I only got 8 right…how did you do?

Cheap TVs and Exorbitant Education, Modern America in One Chart

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2019

Economist Mark Perry has updated for 2018 his chart of price changes of selected goods over the past two decades.

Price Changes Graph

This graphic has been referred to a “the Chart of the Century” because it explains a lot about the socioeconomic life in the United States in just a quick glance.

During the most recent 21-year period from January 1998 to December 2018, the CPI for All Items increased by exactly 56.0% and the chart displays the relative price increases over that time period for 14 selected consumer goods and services, and for average hourly earnings (wages). Seven of those goods and services have increased more than average inflation, led by hospital services (+211%), college tuition (+183.8%), and college textbooks (+183.6%). Average wages have also increased more than average inflation since January 1998, by 80.2%, indicating an increase in real wages over the last several decades.

The other seven price series have declined since January 1998, led by TVs (-97%), toys (-74%), software (-68%) and cell phone service (-53%). The CPI series for new cars, household furnishings (furniture, appliances, window coverings, lamps, dishes, etc.) and clothing have remained relatively flat for the last 21 years while average prices have increased by 56% and wages increased 80.2%.

As various parties have noted, the goods & services that have gotten more expensive tend to be things that people need, aren’t subject to international competition, and are subject to more government regulation. The goods & services that have gotten cheaper tend to be things that people want, are subject to international competition, and are less regulated.

If healthcare & education costs had dropped as much in the last two decades as the price of TVs, toys, and software has, we’d be all set! As it is…

W.E.B. Du Bois’ Data Portraits of Black American Circa 1900

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 13, 2019

A couple of years ago, I wrote about the hand-drawn infographics of W.E.B. Du Bois, noting that the great African American author, sociologist, historian, and activist was also a hell of a designer. Now Whitney Battle-Baptiste and Britt Rusert have collected Du Bois’ data portraits of black America into a new book, W.E.B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America.

Web Du Bois Infoviz

Web Du Bois Infoviz

The colorful charts, graphs, and maps presented at the 1900 Paris Exposition by famed sociologist and black rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois offered a view into the lives of black Americans, conveying a literal and figurative representation of “the color line.” From advances in education to the lingering effects of slavery, these prophetic infographics — beautiful in design and powerful in content — make visible a wide spectrum of black experience.

W. E. B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits collects the complete set of graphics in full color for the first time, making their insights and innovations available to a contemporary imagination. As Maria Popova wrote, these data portraits shaped how “Du Bois himself thought about sociology, informing the ideas with which he set the world ablaze three years later in The Souls of Black Folk.”

“Closeness Lines”: Lovely Visualizations of Relationships Over Time

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 30, 2019

I *love* these simple visualizations of how different kinds of relationships change over time by writer and cartoonist Olivia de Recat.

Closeness Lines Over Time

My pal Jesse James Garrett called them “Feynman diagrams of the heart” that depict “the vast entanglement of humanity”.

The illustration is available as a print but currently sold out. :( Hopefully it’ll be back in stock soon? In the meantime, you can take a look at some of her other cartoons (mostly for the New Yorker), peruse her shop, or follow her stuff on Insta.

Visualizing Dubious Spelling with Flow Diagrams

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 16, 2019

Colin Morris recently analyzed a corpus of comments from Reddit for misspellings by searching for words near uncertainty indicators like “(sp?)”. Among the words that provoked the most doubt were Kaepernick, comradery, adderall, Minaj, seizure, Galifianakis, loogie, and Gyllenhaal. Morris then used a Sankey diagram to visualize how people misspelled “Gyllenhaal” in different ways (with the arrow thickness denoting the frequency of each spelling):

Sankey Chart Gyllenhaal

Tag yourself! (I’m probably on the yellow “LL” arrow.) Sankey diagrams are typically used in science and engineering to visualize flows of energy in and out of a system, but this is a clever adaptation to linguistics (sp?). I’d to see one of these for rhythm. (via @kellianderson)

Which Countries Have Been Top of Mind in the US Over the Past Century?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 02, 2019

The Pudding analyzed over 740,000 headlines from the NY Times since 1900 to determine which country the US was most interested in for each month and turned the analysis into a handy visualization.

Us Headline Preoccupation

As you can see, Britain was mostly the center of attention before WWII, Russia during the Cold War, and China since the mid-2000s. But other countries are liberally sprinkled in and wars are quite visible — WWI, WWII, Vietnam, and Iraq are all represented by solid blocks of interest in our “enemies”.

The Winners of the Information Is Beautiful Awards for 2018

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 11, 2018

Since 2012, Information Is Beautiful has picked the best data visualizations of the year. Here are the winners of the 2018 Awards, which includes the team at Northeastern University & National Geographic for their Simulated Dendrochronology of U.S. Immigration 1790-2016 project.

Immigration Dendrochronology

Nature has its own ways of organizing information: organisms grow and register information from the environment. This is particularly notable in trees, which, through their rings, tell the story of their growth. Drawing on this phenomenon as a visual metaphor, the United States can be envisioned as a tree, with shapes and growing patterns influenced by immigration. The nation, the tree, is hundreds of years old, and its cells are made out of immigrants. As time passes, the cells are deposited in decennial rings that capture waves of immigration.

A deserving winner in the “Most Beautiful” category. Here’s an animated view of US immigration’s “tree rings”:

“Let It Be” - Life Advice from The Beatles

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 28, 2018

Advice From Beatles

From illustrator Michelle Rial, a Venn diagram of some advice for when you’re sad, angry, stressed, or hurt in the form of Beatles lyrics. “Let It Be” is the perfect middle spot. Prints are available.

What Would a Truly Representational US Congress Look Like?

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 20, 2018

Even though the diversity of the US Congress has increased in recent years, a trend that looks to continue after the midterm elections in November, overall the 538 people who serve in Congress are not actually that representative of the US population as a whole. Congress is still way more white, male, and Christian than the US as a whole.

In 2016, Ken Flerlage looked at the gender, religious, and racial diversity of the United States and compared it to that of Congress.

Congress has 104 women (19%) and 431 men (81%) while the United States population is 51% female and 49% male. In order to be truly representative, in terms of gender, 168 seats currently held by men would need to be won by women (taking the number to 272 women and 263 men). It is also worth noting that, of the 104 women, 76 are Democrat (73%), while only 28 are Republican (27%).

And here is the visualization for religion:

Religion Diversity Congress

7.1% of the population are atheist or agnostic and 2.4% ascribe to “other” religions (this includes “don’t know”, other world religions, Pagan, Wiccan, Native American religions, and numerous others), yet not a single member of Congress falls into any of these categories.

When you hear people saying that America is still largely a patriarchal & white supremacist society, this is what they are talking about. It’s not just people being hyperbolic.

You could easily expand on this analysis by breaking it down by age, income, education, urban vs rural, sexual orientation, and occupation. You could guess that a truly representational Congress would be younger, waaaay more poor, less accredited, more urban, less straight, more working class, and, when you consider the gender & racial factors, much more politically progressive, but it would be illuminating to see the actual numbers. I’d love to see the NY Times (maybe The Upshot?), FiveThirtyEight, or The Pudding tackle this analysis.

P.S. It’s also worth noting a truly representational Congress would include full voting members from Puerto Rico and Washington DC as well as from other US territories. And maybe separate Native American representation?

Seven Species So Endangered that Their Remaining Members Could Fit in a Single NYC Subway Car

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2018

Some animals are so endangered that fewer than 100 members of their species remain in the world. For The Guardian, Mona Chalabi depicted the remaining members of seven of those species fitting into their own NYC subway car.

Subway Species

The data was taken from The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Cows, trees, corn, and golf - how America uses its land

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 31, 2018

US Land Use

Here’s How America Uses Its Land is a nice presentation by Bloomberg on land use in the US. The land and resources used for livestock makes a great case for Americans eating more vegetarian.

More than one-third of U.S. land is used for pasture — by far the largest land-use type in the contiguous 48 states. And nearly 25 percent of that land is administered by the federal government, with most occurring in the West. That land is open to grazing for a fee.

There’s a single, major occupant on all this land: cows. Between pastures and cropland used to produce feed, 41 percent of U.S. land in the contiguous states revolves around livestock.

Urban areas take up relatively less space but are growing the fastest. And only 100 people own a space the size of Florida? Wow.

On a percentage basis, urban creep outpaces growth in all other land-use categories. Another growth area: land owned by wealthy families. According to The Land Report magazine, since 2008 the amount of land owned by the 100 largest private landowners has grown from 28 million acres to 40 million, an area larger than the state of Florida.

It would be interesting to see this data sliced and diced in a few different ways. I’d love to see land use by state or area of the country or how much each category is growing or shrinking, with projections 5, 10, 20 years into the future.

City street orientations from around the world

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 25, 2018

Urban data scientist Geoff Boeing graphed the orientation of the streets in 50 cities from around the world. Here are 10 cities from his analysis:

City Street Orientations

How to read the graphs:

Each of the cities above is represented by a polar histogram (aka rose diagram) depicting how its streets orient. Each bar’s direction represents the compass bearings of the streets (in that histogram bin) and its length represents the relative frequency of streets with those bearings.

Looking at these graphs, you get a real sense of just how planned American cities are compared to much of the rest of the world, where cities grew more organically over longer periods of time. (Although I’m curious to see what the graph for all of NYC would look like…a bit more like Boston perhaps.)

Update: Using Mapbox, you can generate street orientation charts for any map view. I used it to verify that north-south roads outnumber east-west roads in New England, which is why it takes so long to go 30 miles across VT compared to up or down.

NE Polar Chart

(via @dokas)

Degrees of Uncertainty

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2018

Degrees of Uncertainty is an upcoming documentary by Neil Halloran that “uses data-driven animation to explore the topic of global warming”. It’s based on this XKCD comic of A Timeline of Earth’s Average Temperature.

Halloran is a creator of the excellent The Fallen of World War II interactive documentary, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with the topic of climate change.

Real Life Charts, Graphs and Charts Made from Found Objects

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 23, 2018

Michelle Rial

Michelle Rial

Michelle Rial

Designer Michelle Rial makes these clever and charming charts and posts them to her Instagram account. Some of the charts are hand-drawn but my favorite ones are made using real world objects, like the ones above. Reminds me of XKCD, Christoph Niemann, and Mari Andrew. Rial has posters, mugs, tote bags, and other items featuring her charts for sale on Society6.

A pair of oil paintings algorithmically pixelized into treemaps of color

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 30, 2018

Dimitris Ladopoulos

Dimitris Ladopoulos

Greek visual designer Dimitris Ladopoulos took two of his favorite oil paintings, one by Rembrandt and the other (confusingly) by Rembrandt Peale, and used a piece of 3D modeling software called Houdini and pixelized them into treemaps of color. They look great in 2D (above), but he also rendered them in 3D with a worn texture:

Dimitris Ladopoulos

Those worn plastic rectangles with the beveled edges are reminding me of something in particular, like a piece of electronics. Something from Sony maybe? Anyone? (via colossal)

The astounding growth of China’s subway system, 1990-2020

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 24, 2018

In 1990, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan had only a handful of subway lines. In the early 2000s, growth in the number of cities with subways started to increase dramatically, as did the number of lines in the bigger cities like Beijing and Shanghai. As of 2020, more than 40 Chinese cities will have subway systems. Check out this time lapse map by “transit nerd” Peter Dovak (who also did these Mini Metros maps):

In this time, Beijing and Shanghai in particular have ballooned from nearly nothing into the world’s two largest, in both length and annual ridership. The timeline of their expansion alone is mesmerizing.

Meanwhile, the NYC subway system is…

Visualizing things that happen every second around the world

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 27, 2017

Every Second Mcdonalds

Every Second is a site that keeps track of various things that happen around the world by the second. For instance:

McDonald’s sells ~75 burgers, serves 810 customers, and makes about $800 every second of the day.

On Facebook, each second brings 52,000 new likes, 8500 new comments, and $261 in profit.

Apple sells 6.5 iPhones and handles 460,000 iMessages every second.

In 2016, Taylor Swift earned about $5 every second of the year. (via @daveg)

Classical music scores as colorful data visualizations

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 20, 2017

Off The Staff

Off The Staff

Nicholas Rougeux, who describes himself as a “designer, data geek, fractal nut”, designed a process to turn musical scores into ultra-colorful images. He outlined his process here.

Rougeux also made video versions where you can see the visualizations form as the songs play. Here’s Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons:

Posters are available.

The global exercise heatmap

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 20, 2017

Strava Heatmap

Strava Heatmap

Strava, makers of apps that allow people to track and share their athletic activities, have released a global heatmap, a visualization of the humanity’s collective athletic activities. In a recent blog post, the company highlighted some of the most interesting spots on the map, which was created using 27 billion miles of data representing over 200,000 years of hiking, biking, running, skiing, and other sporting activity. Pictured above are the ski areas near Salt Lake City and kiteboarding in Baja, Mexico.

A Tapestry of Time and Terrain

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 09, 2017

Tapestry Time Terrain

A Tapestry of Time and Terrain is a map from the USGS that shows the topology and ages of rock underneath the surface of the United States. The age scale on the right is difficult to read unless you download the full 45Mb PDF version, but it goes from Precambrian (2.6 billion years ago) at the bottom to more-or-less the present day at the top.

Through computer processing and enhancement, we have brought together two existing images of the lower 48 states of the United States (U.S.) into a single digital tapestry. Woven into the fabric of this new map are data from previous U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) maps that depict the topography and geology of the United States in separate formats. The resulting composite is the most detailed and accurate portrait of the U.S. land surface and the ages of its underlying rock formations yet displayed in the same image. The new map resembles traditional 3-D perspective drawings of landscapes with the addition of a fourth dimension, geologic time, which is shown in color. This union of topographic texture with the patterns defined by units of geologic time creates a visual synthesis that has escaped most prior attempts to combine shaded relief with a second characteristic shown by color, commonly height above sea level (already implicit in the shaded relief). In mutually enhancing the landscape and its underlying temporal structure, this digital tapestry outlines the geologic story of continental collision and break-up, mountain-building, river erosion and deposition, ice-cap glaciation, volcanism, and other events and processes that have shaped the region over the last 2.6 billion years.

(via @robgmacfarlane)

Dot Piano

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 18, 2017

Dot Piano

Dot Piano is a web-based visual piano that works with a MIDI keyboard peripheral or with your regular computer keyboard. As you play, colorful dots dance across the screen in a variety of ways. Hit record and you can easily save and share your composition with others. This one is fun to watch. (via prosthetic knowledge)

A blueprint of hip hop history

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 10, 2017

Dorothy Hip Hop

Dorothy Hip Hop

Design studio Dorothy has released this poster of a map of hip hop history, featuring notable rap and hip hop artists and groups laid out in the style of a circuit diagram for a classic turntable.

The print pays homage to the godfathers of hip-hop (Gil Scott-Heron, The Last Poets) but takes its starting point as DJ Kool Herc’s Back to School Jam in August 1973 — a block party in the Bronx, New York which is widely regarded as the birthplace of hip-hop.

The print weaves it way through many different scenes and record labels including early old-school innovators (Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Cold Crush Brothers), golden age heroes (Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, KRS-One, Eric B. & Rakim), the collective Native Tongues (De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, Monie Love), politically charged hip-hop (Public Enemy, The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Lauryn Hill), legendary East Coast artists (The Notorious B.I.G, Nas), legendary West Coast artists (Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre), gangsta rap (Ice-T, N.W.A, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg), hardcore (Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep), Southern rap (Lil Wayne, T.I., Outkast) underground hip-hop (Company Flow, MF Doom, Aesop Rock), turntablism (Invisibl Scratch Piklz, The X-Ecutioners), trip-hop (Massive Attack, Tricky, Portishead), UK grime (Wiley, Skepta and Stormzy) and legendary producers (DJ Premier, J Dilla and Madlib).

Pairs well with Tim Carmody’s Introduction to Hip Hop playlist.

Our collective happiness on Twitter reaches a new low

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 04, 2017

Twitter Happiness 2017

The Hedonometer measures the average happiness of Twitter on a daily basis and the shooting in Las Vegas has pushed the index to a new low. The previous low point was after the terror attack in Orlando last July. The two other lowest scores have occurred in the past year and a half: the mass shooting of Dallas police officers and the election of Donald Trump, which is the only non-shooting or non-terror attack to achieve such a low score in the 9-year history of the index.

Audio samples of 1500+ musical genres

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 03, 2017

Every Sound At Once

Warning: you might lose an entire hour to this… Every Noise at Once is a one-page map of playable audio samples for more than 1500 musical genres, from deep tech house to Finnish metal to smooth jazz to geek folk to klezmer to deep opera.

This is an ongoing attempt at an algorithmically-generated, readability-adjusted scatter-plot of the musical genre-space, based on data tracked and analyzed for 1536 genres by Spotify. The calibration is fuzzy, but in general down is more organic, up is more mechanical and electric; left is denser and more atmospheric, right is spikier and bouncier.

You can also listen to a playlist of one song from each musical genre on Spotify (1536 songs that play for 110 hours & 35 minutes):

Or slice and dice genres list in various ways to get to genre specific playlists.

Update: I’ve been informed that if you hover over the name of a genre and then click on the “»”, you get a map of artists in that genre, each with a playable sample. Oops, there goes MY ENTIRE DAY.

Graphing the hidden thresholds of everyday life

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 06, 2017

Unendurable line is a short film by Daihei Shibata which shows the movement of objects like springs, magnetically attracted objects, spinning tops, and stacked blocks accompanied by a real-time graph of the movement. A bit tough to explain…just watch it. Reminds me of Bret Victor’s live coding. (via colossal)