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The U.S. Census Bureau Center for Economic Studies has long supported (for the past ~5 years) an online system for pulling area-based employment and residence data using a visual map-based selection tool called OnTheMap.  This software is fairly intuitive and fun to use, but can also be quite useful in exploring a specific market or region to understand where workers live and work, and how that has changed over time.

OnTheMap is useful for more than work location, however.  It’s a multi-layered mapping tool, with companion data on demographics, earnings, industry characteristics.  We’ve also used it to identify exact metropolitan statistical areas and radius ranges, to find transportation routes, greenspace, and tribal and military lands, and to simply better understand a physical marketplace.

For years, organizations like the Census Bureau relied heavily on point-in-time estimates, tables of statistics and physical and static maps for data exploration like this. As new systems come online, are developed further, and improved over successive versions, our ability to access information from our desktops is not only facilitated but empowered.

Infomous is a dynamic and intuitive navigation solution – perhaps soon to pop up on websites you visit.  Web developers for content-rich sites have integrated word cloud and tablet-style flip navigation over the past few years, but this is a solution that seems to combine aspects of both: reference triggers and dynamic script.  The tool is currently available in preview/beta version through a relationship with the provider, but will roll out later this year, ready for embed.  More info at Infomous – they have a demo up for world news, a version for sports news, entertainment news, science news.  It’s easy to explore and find links to try.

There is an interesting round-up and comment discussion published at The Big Picture about models that visualize a hierarchy of intelligence. The images below also link through to their sources and related discussions.

The paradigm has traditionally been 1) Data 2) Information 3) Knowledge and 4) Wisdom.  As data sources amass, and become more widely accessible through digital interconnectivity, does the model hold up?  Are the definitions of each of these “levels” evolving? To visualize this model for various applications, what story should we try to tell?  Do the stories below seem relevant (the story of how organization increases, or the story of how data is produced, consumed, then personalized)?  Does the model only serve as an explanatory framework, or can it be applied to strategies for learning; for communications?  It’s interesting to think about these questions, and to consider the evolution of this model, and various visual approaches to its application, over time.

We try to pass along great infographics, but we also get excited about fresh and interesting approaches to cartography.  And from time to time in conducting national-scale quantitative research studies, we have to dig deep into Census statistics from 2000.

Eric Fischer’s recently-posted Flickr photoset relies on 2000 Census stats and OpenStreetMap data, depicting racial and ethnic divides in a few dozen major American cities. His work was inspired by Bill Rankin’s map of Chicago’s racial and ethnic divides. The visualizations for Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Houston are particularly striking, and most maps feature some explanatory notes through use of mouse-overs.

Long Beach

"Race and Ethnicity - Long Beach" By Eric Fischer

This is great work, and I hope to one day see an update based on 2010 Census data to see, among other things, the changes in concentration of Hispanic-Americans, the differences in post-Katrina New Orleans, and the evolving makeups of Southeastern cities.  This is fascinating data and imagery that really makes one think about what a difference a decade makes.

“David McCandless turns complex data sets (like worldwide military spending, media buzz, Facebook status updates) into beautiful, simple diagrams that tease out unseen patterns and connections. Good design, he suggests, is the best way to navigate information glut — and it may just change the way we see the world.”

Source and Comments

We see a lot of data and present it in a lot of different ways, so when someone is out there analyzing the analysis it brings out the research geek. I tripped across Junk Charts today, a site dedicated to highlighting some of the worst in infographics. You can also follow the site on twitter, here.