Thursday, December 20, 2007

the NYT takes it up a notch

The New York Times recently posted this impressive interactive visualization showing the degree to which each of the presidential candidates are mentioning one another in their debates. The NYT graphics team has certainly been ahead of the curve in terms of producing readable (and beautiful) infovis, but this one strikes me as a step above their usual (great) stuff. A network diagram like this is a considerably more abstract visual encoding than a bar chart or line graph, so I'm surprised and pleased to see it being deployed in such a high-traffic context.

Matt Ericson, the head of their graphics department, has talked about the challenges they face in designing "infovis for the masses;" I wonder if broadening their visualization repertoire with examples like this represents an increased confidence in the "visualization literacy" of their readers. I also wonder if they work more experimentally with the graphics they produce for the NYT website versus the print edition, and if this reflects a perceived difference in the "visualization literacy" of those respective audiences. Assuming it could be reworked as a static image, would they feel confident deploying this visualization in the print edition?

Either way, this is a fantastic example of effective public-facing visualization.

Monday, December 17, 2007

the most wonderful time of the year

As the lack of recent updates suggests, it has been a very busy couple of weeks for me on account of the end of the semester finally arriving. On the plus side, I kicked out a draft of a thesis chapter and finished various other projects, so it was time well spent. I hope to start posting here more frequently again, but I'm also looking forward to the holiday break!

Anyways, I don't usually like to advertise my own visualization work here, but I just posted the final project for a course I was taking this semester, Media in Transition, that people might find interesting. It's a prototype visualization of a set of Incan artifacts called "khipu," as cataloged by the Khipu Database Project at Harvard. Without going in to too much detail, the khipu take the form of hierarchically knotted strings used to encode information (so, arguably early information visualization!), though the meanings of these encodings remain largely undeciphered. I thought it would be interesting to prototype a visualization of the collection to suggest the value of infovis in facilitating exploration and analysis of the (somewhat unconventional) data set. You can check out the project page and applet here. More information about the khipu can be found at the Khipu Database Project page, and of course on Wikipedia. There's also an interesting article on them on from a few months ago.

Happy holidays!