Featured Image above by Robert Kosara
This week, I was lucky enough to be one of the roughly 160 people attending the invite only Tapestry Data Storytelling Conference, which took place in Athens, GA on Wednesday, March 4th. Organized by Tableau software, this small, single day conference is centered around using data to tell a wide range of stories and included amazing talks from a myriad of different speakers.
In addition to the speakers, attendees also took the stage for two hours in a presentation room where a small group was given the opportunity to share their data storytelling projects. Though there were a number of really rad presentations, I found myself most engaged by what I am calling “The Fab Four.” While each is of these presentations is “fab” for different reasons, all of the presenters below used the perfect combination of data and story to create exceptional projects.
Created by 2014 Stamen fellow Kristin Henry, myCitySounds was inspired by research on noise pollution in daily life. Described by Henry as an “interactive visualization and sound map,” myCitySounds gives users the ability to walk a mile in Henry’s shoes. To get the data she needed for her project, Henry used the The open street map tracker on her Android phone to collect audio samples while walking between the Stamen Design studio and the Gray Area theater in San Francisco’s Mission district. Using D3.js to visualize the audio files she collected, Henry created the visualization below, which gives users an audio snapshot of the neighborhood as it is today.
2. Compare Cloud
Driven by his frustration with the inability of existing text visualizations to support comparative analysis of text data, Nick Diakopoulos decided to develop his own solution, and Compare Cloud was born. Using 19,303 post-Snowden articles about surveillance collected from 15 mainstream media sources, and 26,364 blog posts in between June 2013 to July 2014, this visualization allows users to directly compare the differences in language used in mainstream media articles vs. blog posts. Unlike word clouds, which often only allow for the analysis of word frequency at best, Diakopoulos’ solution offers users the ability to dig deeper into the textual differences between these platforms.
Leveraging user comments on International Movie Database (IMDB.com), Kim Albrecht created this visualization, which allows users to explore the interconnectedness of films over time. Films are ordered by year on the y-axis and by number of references in other movies on the x-axis. Users can then explore which movies are referenced most or least in other films, at which time movies were referenced the most, and when a movie began to be referenced in other films. If you are interested in figuring out how many movies have borrowed themes from that obscure movie you love, this is the viz for you.
4. The Effect of War and Genocide
Seeking to reverse engineer an existing visualization made by analyst Adam McCann about the effect of war on life expectancy, Tapestry attendee Nelson Davis created this hard-hitting viz. Interested in taking a different perspective from McCann, he began to tweak the original viz and further explored the data when something unsettling surfaced. In 1993, the average life expectancy in Rwanda was just 26. After discovering this unexpected drop, Davis asked himself what would have caused this large decrease in life expectancy so rapidly. The answer was genocide. Once he realized this, Nelson began to dig deeper into the data and found similar occurrences. Other examples included Bosnia during the early 1990s, in Iran during the early 1980s, in the Assad regime during Syrian Civil War and in Cambodia in 1977, when average life expectancy was only 19. With a web of simple lines Davis visualized the far-reaching effects of the deaths of millions of people.
Being exposed to these presentations got me thinking not only about how to create successful visualizations, but also made me realize that the kinds of stories that can be told with data are endless. These projects inspired me in different ways, and I hope they do the same for you. Questions? Thoughts? Lets talk in the comments.