Friday, January 8, 2010

Data Visualization -- So Cool

Somebody somewhere (probably on Facebook) pointed me once to a YouTube video that was a visualization of Obama's budget cuts, or something like that. It was fascinating. And ultimately, through a little investigation, I found a blog by the guy who made the video. The blog is called "Political Math" (, if you're curious), and I think the guy's name is Matthias Shapiro.

This guy takes data that's out there in the public domain concerning things like the national budget, the cash-for-clunkers program, the war in Afghanistan, etc. and presents the data visually so it is easier to understand. Seriously, you gotta check out the website and look in the archives. Some of this stuff -- particularly the videos -- is really great.

Apparently, this is a new, up-and-coming thing called "data visualization". People do this for a living. Yesterday, he posted a couple of videos of presentations about "Info Viz", and how it is the wave of the future. I am absolutely fascinated by this.

It reminds me some of Alton Brown's show, "Good Eats". One of my favorites. He doesn't just give you recipes and cook them in front of you -- he doesn't even just entertain you with his sparkling personality. He does "Info Viz" -- he gives visual demonstrations of the scientific principles involved in what he's doing. And you understand it. At least, I do . . . and I'm not a scientifically minded person.

That's what this Political Math guy does. He takes the numbers and makes them understandable. I love it. I wish I could do this. I remember thinking many times that somebody should make an Alton Brown kind of show that explains the political issues that crop up each election year. (The trouble, of course, would be making the presentation unbiased and bi-partisan....)

This is more of that right-brained stuff I was reading about a while ago. Design, narrative, all that. We so need people who can communicate this way. I'm not sure I'm such a person, but I get SOOO excited when I see the work of those who are.

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