October 06, 2011
Good data journalism ultimately makes a story more accessible to an audience, and ties together threads one might not normally see. Here are two examples, one UK and one not.
Britistics is an attempt to visualize of a bunch of compiled data from sources such as the UK Office for National Statistics and OnePoll. It uses a lot of nice iconography to represent various facts about life in Britain. I appreciate the variety of the stats; they include everything from tidy depictions of political participation, to an incredible amount of information about socks.
While most of the stats are quite interesting, I was somewhat confused by the second page, “If the UK were 100 people.” In one section, it talks about livestock, giving the figure of 17 cows. Maybe I was just viewing this while tired, but it took me a second to figure out that was supposed to read “.17 cows per person comprising 1% of the British population.” What does that even mean, though?
The Poppy File was a project by OpenFile Toronto to commemorate Remembrance Day last year. It was one of the data visualization projects that got my initially excited about OpenFile, in that it combined some very in-depth reporting with some interesting data journalism. Particularly interesting is Patrick Cain’s “Remembering Toronto’s Fallen from World War II” project, which used a civic data collection project from WWII to visualize the impact of war on a community. Essentially, Toronto City Hall used newspaper ads and casualty lists to create a record for each serviceman from Toronto killed during the conflict — a record currently comprising 12 boxes in the city’s archives. The index cards on which this data was written also listed the address of the deceased’s next-of-kin, from which Cain has built his map.
My one criticism with the interactive map is that the poppies don’t really scale properly at the lower zoom levels, to such a point it looks like one big glob when zoomed to its extents. The poppies should scale proportionally to the map, such that they’re just tiny points when more fully zoomed out.