Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Great Depression vs "The Great Recession"

This chart uses color coding well to help point out attributes for comparison between the Great Depression and the supposed "Great Recession." The green and the red made it easy to identify the price level as well as deflation. The black color for inflation would have probably been better as some other color so one would not confuse it with normal text color. The use of green and red would be okay if they are the type of green and red that colorblind people can tell the difference with.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Military Spending

US military spending as a percentage of GDP, 1940--2003

The reason I like this visualization so much is it makes our military spending seem rather trivial. Aside from WW2, military spending has remained pretty steady (in fact its generally declined). I always hear how much money we spend, but it never puts it into perspective just how much it is relative to how much money we have. This reminded me of the video Professor Olson showed in class with the pennies and how much Obama claimed to have saved. I think there is room for a lot of visualizations that put common misconceptions in perspective.
The above visualization is by Carolyn Aler and Sam Conway in response to a "Making Sense of the Financial Mess" contest held by Good Magazine in late 2008.

The visualization succeeds in effectively using human abilities to easily distinguish relative magnitude by using simple shape representations of houses to indicate fluctuations in average home price between 1980 and the recent present. I find the outlined circles representing millions of prime vs. sub-prime (credit rating) home owners to be an especially effective tool, because our visual system is very adept at processing differences in color within a pattern. Although difficult to quickly assess exact numbers from such representations, this is besides the point in my opinion -- the general trends in the data are easily recognizable as a result, making deriving meaning from the data a simpler task. The remaining bar and line graph follow similar principles.

Great Depression Gold Standard

The visualization is simplistic and uses only representation in order to get its point across. Simplicity in this case works for the graph since interactivity may cause this become much more complex then necessary. On the other hand interactivity in terms of allowing only certain lines to appear and hide others, may allow for easy comparisons. Colors could be helpful hear in helping distinguish which line is which but the structure of each line takes care of this so colors may just be an unnecessary addition.

Abuse of Money Printing

I think this chart is rather straightforward and absolutely scary in its implications.
To quote directly from the site I got this from:

"Fed Chairman Bernanke is running amok, and for the first time since the birth of the U.S. dollar, our government is egregiously abusing its power to print money.

Specifically, from September 10, 2008 to March 10 of this year, he has increased the nation’s monetary base from $850 billion to $2.1 trillion — an irresponsible, irrational and insane increase of 2.5 times in just 18 months.

It is, by far, the greatest monetary expansion in U.S. history. And you must not underestimate its sweeping historical significance."

If anyone's familiar with the monetary system in, say, Japan or Vietnam, all of their bills practically have at least 5 digits on them. They weren't always like that, and were caused by similar situations where the government printed money at unprecedented rates.

Pretty soon the Chinese are gonna start laughing at how much the U.S. farmers make per hour instead of the other way around /sarcasm

This is a segment of a visualization of the US' economy between 1775 and 1943. For space reasons, this segment of the graph covers back to 1901. Multiple economic measurements are included, including national debt (the red line), national income (the green line), the commodity price of goods in the US (the dashed line) and and stock values (the |-|- line that's kind of hard to see.) Multiple y-axes are scattered throughout the graph, generally around the starting point of the measurements if there is one, but all adhere to the same grid lines. It also labels certain horizontal spans with historical events that occurred in that span of time. Those labels at the very top are the US Presidents in office during that time.
This graph is a lot like the visualization of Napoleon's march, in that it correlates multiple, related points of data across a common passage of time. This makes identifying correlations quite simple. Identifying key historical events, especially wars and post-war periods, also highlights causal relationships between world events and economic performance. We can also observe patterns emerging over time, in effect proving that history does tend to repeat. The main drawback of this visualization it its tendency to be rather busy in certain areas. In addition to the crossing of multiple lines of varying visibility, actually measuring the magnitude of any given measurement against its axis requires some knowledge about which axis should be used. Similarly, many of the labels and notations on the visual require some understanding of the historical occurrences and dynamics of their economic area. For instance, one segment of the visual highlights an area of commodity prices between 1841 and 1847 with arrows and notes "Wholesale commodity prices 1910-14-100". To the average user, the meaning of this annotation won't be immediately obvious.
Seeing the economic trends of the last 16 or so decades was generally interesting to me. However, two points immediately stuck out to me when viewing it. First, national income was fairly steady, climbing annually at rarely changing rates, until about 1916. After that, it quickly shot up, then began rollercoastering around until the end of the visual. The second thing was how completely the lack of business activity during the Great Depression eclipsed both the prosperity that preceded it, and any other depression that had come before it. Worse, during that period, everything except the federal debt (stock prices, commodity prices, income) followed. It's a stark depiction of how monumental the Great Depression was.