Massive sets of data are exploding right before our eyes, thanks to our ever-increasing internet usage and ability to process large data sets. If you present these data sets raw, they’ll just look like clusters of gibberish likely to be ignored by the people. However, if you present them through pictures that show the relationship of every data part, people may actually consider giving it some serious thought. That’s how data visualization works.
One must not assume, however, that all data visualizations are helpful. Some of them are deceptive, misinterpreted and distorted. But if you happen to stumble across a good one that speaks the truth behind countless conflicting stories, then how great can that be? Here’s a piece from O’Reilly Media explaining further why data visualization matters in today’s era of big data and compounding knowledge.
Another advantage of using data visualization is that it eases the bitterness of presenting depressing data. One such example is the divorce statistics in the United States. Ironically, February holds the highest divorce rate of any other month, despite it being the filled with hearts, flowers and an overall air of romance. Around 50 percent of marriages in the US ends up in divorce, and 80 percent of them are one-sided. And funny as it sounds, we have Facebook to thank for one of the five evidences that leads to this ill-fated split.
Divorce isn’t the only personal crisis in the US. Obesity is too. Here’s a tool that gives us a detailed view of the so-called nationwide obesity epidemic (sounds like a disease) and factors that encourage it. One can notice that while obesity is a problem that spans across the country, the rates vary widely from state to state.
We also have another tool that shows how the different Presidential candidates have fared in his fact checks, courtesy of Glenn Kesller of the Washington Post Fact Checker. According to the data, Michelle Bachman has told the biggest and most number of lies while Jon Hunstman Jr. told the least. President Obama has also told a good deal of lies, but not so many to earn 4 Pinocchios for this chart. I think this one’s a pretty interesting statistic. Everybody deserves to know how many times his candidate has lied while on the campaign trail.
Illegal drugs is also a rather important issue that concerns the world right now, especially in the United States as it borders Mexico, the runner of one of the longest drug pipelines in the world. In this map, Melissa Dell shows cluster homicides by region and major highway attack routes through bubbles. Here’s how to use it:
“To unclutter the map and following the lead of the paper Trafficking Networks and the Mexican Drug War by Melissa Dell, I decided to only show the optimal highways (according to my own data and Google Directions) to reach the US border ports from the municipalities with the highest drug plant eradication between 1994 and 2003 and the highest 2d density estimate of drug labs based on newspaper reports of seizures. The map is a work in progress and is still missing the cocaine routes, but hopefully I’ll be able to add them shortly.”
In this strange yet beautiful world, there are countless mountains of data yet to be mapped. Sure enough, there will be more data visualization pieces that will blow our minds in the future. Stay tuned for our weekly Big Data series to see the world in a new way.