Data visualisations

One of the many things that fascinate me is the visualisation of data and information.  I’ve been following Nathan at Flowing Data for a while.  Of course, most of my interactions there have been vicarious.  Until today.  The challenge was to visualise[1] data of poverty rates across different states in the US.  I don’t know if we have a similar measure in Aus, but it was a challenge and I’m on holidays so can play with ideas without really needing to, so I did.

Having four subsets within the data made it a bit of a challenge.  I thought about using a stacked graph, but that’s too simple.  There was a map of poverty as depth of colour across individual states, but I’m still getting my head around where all of the states are[2], so in some ways, maps of the US are almost meaningless to me.  I’m familiar with the names of the states, but couldn’t reliably say where all of them were, with probably about half a dozen exceptions.  I thought about using area, multiple layers and all sorts of things, but I finally decided on using the names of the states.  If there was some way of representing the proportion of the population related to the name of the state, I was home.  Then I remembered Wordle.  Wordle is a visualisation based on frequency of occurrence of words, but each state only occured once in the list.  I had to come up with a way of representing the proportion of people with the name of the state.  Using some excel-fu, I managed to get the list in terms of repeated occurrences of each state based on the proportion[3].  Then I could put it into Wordle for it to visualise the frequency.  The result is below. I’m quite impressed with it, even if it doesn’t give a really accurate picture.

Visualisation of the proportion of the US population living in Poverty

Visualisation of the proportion of the US population living in Poverty

I think visualisation is going to become a very important skill in the future.  I’d love to be able to develop a course in this.  We touch, ever so briefly, on the concepts in Business Informatics, but with the new degree that we’re planning, I hope to get a full course on visualisation developed.

  1. and yes, it is spelt with an S []
  2. and there’s so many states []
  3. made the proportion a whole number (multiplied by 100), then used the REPT function in excel to get that number of repeats of the state’s name []

About alison

Lecturer, high school drop out, PhD, informatician
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3 Responses to Data visualisations

  1. Luke says:

    That is very cool. You should be impressed that is AWESOME.

    Reply to this Comment

    alison reply on January 18th, 2009:

    It was fun! I want to play more.

    Hmm, maybe this is a replacement activity for one of the tutes in BI?

    Reply to this Comment

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