visual data
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learning, conceptualizing + communicating data with infographics, visualizations, etc...
Curated by Lauren Moss
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Are Our Transit Maps Tricking Us?

Are Our Transit Maps Tricking Us? | visual data | Scoop.it
Subway maps distort the reality on the ground for all kinds of reasons. What happens when we make decisions based on them?

London’s city center takes up about two percent of the city. On the Tube map, it looks four times as big.

Over in New York City, Central Park—which is a skinny sliver, much longer than it is wide—was depicted in some 1960s and ‘70s IRT maps as a fat rectangle on its side.

So public transit maps are distorted, quite on purpose. All of them enlarge city centers. Many use a fixed distance between stations out in the boonies, even if, in reality, they’re spaced wildly differently. Curvy lines are made straight. Transfers are coded with dots, lines, and everything in between.

According to Zhan Guo, an assistant professor of urban planning and transportation policy at NYU Wagner, certain cities allow for more flight of fancy than others. San Francisco and New York have a lot of geographic markers, so passengers will only accept so much map distortion.

New York’s grid system further discourages excessive futzing. In Chicago, the line is elevated, which leaves even less leeway. But in a place like London, with twisty streets, few geographical markers other than the Thames, and an underground system, you can pull a lot more over on people...

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The Debate: Have Infographics Jumped The Shark?

The Debate: Have Infographics Jumped The Shark? | visual data | Scoop.it
Megan McArdle at the Atlantic piles on the Infographic debate, " issuing a plea to bloggers to help stop this plague in its track."...

 

A while back I asked 'Have infographics jumped the shark?'.

At the time I was complaining primarily about how well they convey information and how easy they are to check since they lack hyperlinks. I alluded to some pretty strange linkbait. Then we, like a lot of other sites, got caught in the pure linkbait play Bikes Will Save You and the Planet (Infographic) which is still up for some reason. Chris responded to this with his post On Bike Infographics & Link Marketing, where he noted that even a good infographic can make us feel "icky" if they are linkbait.

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Functional Art: Infographics as moral acts

Functional Art: Infographics as moral acts | visual data | Scoop.it
Edward Tufte is —among many other good things— the Oscar Wilde of information graphics and visualization: He tends to write in aphorisms and epigrams, so he is a very quotable essayist. Here's a paragraph of his that I hold dear:

"Making an evidence presentation is a moral act as well as an intellectual activity. To maintain standards of quality, relevance, and integrity for evidence, consumers of presentations should insist that presenters be held intellectually and ethically responsible for what they show and tell. Thus consuming a presentation is also an intellectual and moral activity."

 

That paragraph speaks to the three persons that coexist in me: The journalist, the educator, and the information designer. Its main theme is central in The Functional Art: Correctly presenting data and phenomena in a graphic is not just a professional endeavor; it is also —above all— an ethical mandate. So is openly and candidly discuss mistakes, yours and others'. In infographics and visualization, the decisions we make on how to encode information, how to organize it, and how to present it, should be guided by a simple principle: Whatever improves citizens' interest in a relevant topic and their understanding of it is morally and ethically* good; whatever obscures the subject, trivializes it, or misleads audiences is bad...

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