January 10, 2010 § Leave a comment
Companies collect detailed information on user’s habits, and sometimes they’re willing to share it with visual journalists. In this case, Neftflix provided The New York Times with movie rankings by Zip code, which the Times turned into noteworthy infographics in print and online on Jan. 10.
A key to making graphics like this work is “normalization.” Let me explain: If you chose to map the NUMBER OF TIMES “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” was rented in each town, that is not normalized. One town might have more people in it than another, so you end up measuring the number of people in each town more than your are measuring the popularity of the movie.
Mapping the RANKING of the movie takes care of this. A heat map showing a movie’s ranking in each location would provide similar results to a heat map showing the number of times a movie was rented in each location divided by the location’s population. (Or at least that’s my theory. I don’t have the data on hand to prove it.)
Another interesting thing to point out about the graphic: The print and online versions were vastly different. I first read the print version in the newspaper’s Sunday Metropolitan section. (Sorry, can’t link to it since it’s a full-page print graphic. I’ll just have to describe.) It showcased a large map of the New York metro region that showed which Zip codes favored “Frost/Nixon,” “Pineapple Express” or “Obsessed.” Below it were six small heat maps of the same region that showed the rankings of six movies.
The online version, which you can see at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/01/10/nyregion/20100110-netflix-map.html?ref=nyregion lets you scroll through the top 50 Netflix movies nationwide and see heat maps of their rankings in 12 Metro areas.
This is a good example of how visual journalists have to adjust their print and online presentations to fit the strengths of both media.
November 18, 2009 § Leave a comment
Otto Neurath, designer and sociologist, made beautiful pictograms that invoked the data he displayed. If his units represented unemployed people, they might take the form of hunched, depressed silhouettes, hands in pockets. Days of travel across the ocean might be expressed as jagged ocean waves.
We often forget that information graphics need not be cold and clinical. The book “Otto Neurath: The Language of the Global Polis” serves as a tonic to that tendency.
The blurb for the book: “Austrian sociologist Otto Neurath was a seminal Modernist figure. Much attention has been given to his achievements in the fields of graphic design and philosophy (Neurath was a member of the Vienna Circle, founder of the Museum of Society and Economy, inventor of the ISOTYPE pictorial system and champion of the Unity of Science movement), yet his involvement with urbanism and architecture has been all but ignored. From 1931 onwards, Neurath collaborated with the International Congress of Modern Architecture and its chief exponents–Cornelis van Eesteren, Sigfried Giedion, Le Corbusier and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy–to develop an international language of urban planning and design. More experimentally, throughout the 1930s a fascination with visual media led to an attempt to franchise the Museum of Society and Economy by establishing international satellite museums. This volume contains a text by curator and writer Nader Vossoughian, which offers a fresh perspective on one of the most versatile intellectuals of the twentieth century.”