Each Tuesday, Eurry Kim, a student in our class, will pick one example of data visualization to share with us. Eurry wrote:
For this week’s viz, I decided on the following New York Times graphic:
New York Times again?? Yes, I have a good reason. Wait for it.
The graphic demonstrates a breakdown of government aid through the use of small multiples — a series of small charts sharing the same design and the same relative axis. These offer quick and easy comparisons between categories. Ed Tufte says that “an economy of perception results; once viewers decode and comprehend the design for one slice of data, they have familiar access to data in all the other slices. As our eye moves from one image to the next, this constancy of design allows viewers to focus on changes in information rather than changes in graphical composition (Envisioning Information, p.29).” Plus, notice the use of horizontal bars to display the percentages of government aid given to the various groups. Do you see the light gray bar under each percentage? This is a demonstration of Weber’s Law. The law basically says that a reference is needed to achieve perceptual judgement between small differences. Take a look at the first column and distinguish the differences between Vermont’s 49% and 46%. If that gray bar wasn’t there, it would be tough to tell the difference between the two values (the percentage labels notwithstanding — haha).
I am partial to uses of data science in journalism because of the respect paid towards the importance of visualization. Journalists have a duty to provide lucid and effective content to their readers — the same level of communication is demanded in their conveyance of data. Data scientists should feel the same responsibility. Our job is not over even after implementing the machine learning algorithm. Manually. Without a package. Communication of the findings is just as important as the statistical methods underlying the findings. Have you read Ed Tufte’s description of the botched presentation on O-rings before the fated Challenger explosion?
Finally, I just found out about a MOOC (massive open online course) offered through UT Austin and the Knight Center. It’s a course on data visualization starting on the 28th! And it will be using Adobe Illustrator (vector graphic design software) in its content. http://knightcenter.utexas.edu/00-11587-knight-center-launches-its-first-massive-online-course-introduction-infographics-data-visua