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.

Distribution of Wealth



I like this visualization because of its sheer simplicity, but it does suffer from a few problems. While the color contrasts make seeing different pieces very easy, the text size for the more detailed labels makes them hard to read. Furthermore, the size of the two different segments of the pig are misleading; it's somewhat unclear that they refer to the percentage of the world's wealth. Lastly, the mud (paint?) splotch at the bottom right is also a little confusing: does it mean anything, or is it just "there?"

Cost of Living(1774-2007)



I think this is a good visualization of the cost of living. It's a little outdated, but 2007 is close enough for us to get an idea of what the cost of living is like today. I found the first graph interesting because it shows both the inflation rates and deflation rates in the United States since the U.S's birth. We can compare the rates year by year, and with extra information, we can change what we're doing today so that our inflation or deflation rate in the future stays stable. The second graph gives us an idea of what it would be like to live in 1774 with 2007's inflation rate. Basically in 1774, we could have more than survived on $100. The graphs don't represent changes in the standard of living though, only the cost, as standards are subjective to everyone.

Who is Paying Taxes?


This bar compares a pie chart and a bar graph that together reveal some interesting things about our tax system. I found the bar graph interesting because of the gradual transition the bars made from bottom to top. In the $10,000 - $20,000 range, there were still 16.4% paying taxes. In the $500,000 range, there were still 1.8% people not having to pay taxes. There are no 100%'s in any of the bars, not even for those who are making under $10,000. However, the pie chart provides another view of tax distribution. It seems that those at the top hold a hefty burden, with the people richer than 50% of the population paying more than 85% of the taxes. Thus, everyone who has to pay taxes suffers, especially those who are also poor. A solution to this would be to make a limit where people who are considered poor (don't make a certain amount of money) do not have to pay taxes. Otherwise, everyone else has to pay taxes. Since low-salary people barely contribute to taxes anyways, they should be replaced by the people who have no federal tax liability. Thus, everyone who has to (and who should) pay taxes will get to pay less.

World Economy



This visualization is a representation of the world economy. This is a really attractive visualization that uses shapes and colors effectively. Each circle represents the size of the nation’s economy every decade from 1970 to 2050. The different colors represent different countries. The simplicity of the visualization also drew my attention. Without a lot of texts, the visualization is able to illustrate what changes in the world economy. We can also easily see the shifts of the countries. Unfortunately, the texts are so small, which makes it hard to see the name of the countries. The countries listed are (respectively from top to bottom) : United States, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Russia, Brazil, India, and China. It is interesting to see how China (in red) shifts from being at the very bottom and end up being the number one country, higher than the United States (in blue). Another emerging country is India (in green) that ends up being the third country after the United States.

Housing Bubble


I thought this visualization showed a very interesting pattern in housing purchases for almost 5 decades. This depiction really attracted my attention at first because of the unusual shape of the bar graph. This is the first one i have seen in a circular shape, but I think it does a great job getting its point across. One of the things this chart does best is to show the ups and downs of housing growth (and the economy in general). Readers can clearly see the patterns that form with the bars even though it is not in a horizontal orientation. One thing i really liked about this graph was the position of what seems to be the most important or relevant information, which is the years 2000-2009. These are placed in the top left corner, which is usually the first place people look. If this were a horizontal chart, the focus would be drawn to the middle of the chart, the 80's-90's where there was less significant change. The values were also clearly marked by the outer circles, which was very helpful in identifying values. Lastly, I really liked how the high and low points were clearly marked by different colored tabs, which easily drew my attention.

Economic Stress Index 2008-2009


I found this visualization to be interesting because it combines different attributes such as the impact of unemployment, foreclosures and bankruptcy of each county in the country into one visualization calculated as the economic stress index.This graph is good for visualizing trends and seeing which areas seem to be suffering the most (the more brown- the worse it is, the more blue- the better). One great value I see from this visualization is the vast amount of information revealed while making a complicated concept easy to visualize. Also, the way it is presented makes the topic interesting so the viewer wants to explore the data. Another great feature about this graph is that it is to scale and not distorted, making it easier for the user to make overall impressions of the trends. Moreover, the representation is clear on which counties and states in general are suffering the most. One of the faults I found is that even though there is color consistency, the graph is too cluttered with too many different colors because it is comparing counties. I think it would be better instead if it was calculated by region or perhaps if it had a scale with different ranges and colors corresponding to those ranges. Color contrasts could have been used in a better way as well.

The Oil Economy

This is a visualization of the US Consumption, Gas price, and Oil price trends since 9/11 that I found on mint.com. I like this one in particular because its very easy to use; just clicking on the 5 buttons on the left will display the corresponding line on the chart. Any line from the chart can be removed by simply clicking the corresponding button again. i also like this visualization because of the high correlation it shows between gas prices, oil prices, and US consumption. As you can see, for the most part of the graph an increase in oil prices means an increase in gas prices, and conversely, a decrease in US consumption. Another feature of this visualization that makes interpretation easy is the "timeline of events" along the top of the chart. hovering the cursor over the green dots reveals specific events that are related to the sudden increase/decrease depicted in the graph.

Unemployment Rate Over the Last Decade

This graph clearly does a great job of showing trends of the unemployment rate. We can see a spike most recently in the unemployment rate due to the economic crisis we are currently feeling the effects of. The graph also shows the difference between USA and Canada showing that all of North America is being effected as well. The graph however lacks information about any affects that would directly cause the unemployment. Overall, this is a great graph to show the simple idea of how the job market has been changing as a result of the economy.

Unemployment Rates in the US: September 2009



This visualization is an illustration of the unemployment in the United States during the month of September in the year 2009. The national average rate of unemployment during this time is at 8.9%, and this diagram displays the way the statistics are distributed among the various counties across the nation. The visualization makes effective use of color, using contrasting colors between higher and lower rates. This helps facilitate visual cognition, allowing readers to easily distinguish the variations in the data represented. Although this is supposed to be a representation of unemployment rates by county, it is almost impossible to isolate a single county due to its small size and lack of labeling. However, the purpose of this visualization is to display the distribution of unemployment and moreover the concentration of higher rates in the more industrialized areas. The Midwest displays the lower rates of unemployment, and this diagram is meant to highlight this matter. The effective use of color in this visualization allows readers to much easier make this distinction and draw educated conclusions given the displayed data.

Visualizing Unemployment in the UK


Here's an interesting interactive visualization I've found that overlays unemployment rates over the geography of the UK. At the different states of the visual, there are instruction tags directing how you are supposed to interact with it.

The most important interaction point is the sliding bar, which allows you to scroll through the unemployment rates for a specific month between June 2005 and April 2010. As you the month changes, you can see the map overall grow a darker shade of color with some areas hit much harder than others, denoted by a shade of purple (colors are explained in the legend next to the map). Worst impacted areas on the map for the month are explicitly listed under the legend. Like the map, this list also dynamically changes as you use the scroll bar.

The visualization also makes use of common-place zoom-able map design: clicking on the map allows you to see specific areas in detail and clicking areas near the edge of the map allows you to pan and a message that points to the "reset map" button to zoom out. The scroll bar is still usable in this state so that you can view unemployment shift for smaller regions in greater detail.

The greatest asset to this visualization is that it uses a continuous interaction style (Spence Ch.5) to present a large amount of data in a small amount of space, even though the data itself is discrete).

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7789784.stm

Bankruptcies

This recession definitely has seen history's largest bankruptcies. Here is a cool visualization I found on the web:

I like this visualization because of the colors appeal - the different economic sectors are classified in different colors, and it is clearly distinguishable that the finance sector had the biggest implosions. The element that I like the most about this infographic is that is to scale -- most infographics I come across are visually appealing, convey correct numerical information, but are scaled incorrectly for a deceiving (may be on purpose, or harmless mistake) visual.

GG Lehman Brothers.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized


The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

This video describes the lending practices that led to economic meltdown using images and narration that are understandable to the average person. While it is not a traditional visualization which directly maps economic data to some graphic, I think it is far more useful than the standard line graphs and pie charts for people who have not studied economics past high school but still want to stay informed about why the economy is behaving the way it is.

The video succeeds at presenting its information in a comprehensible manner by keeping it within the mental model of the target audience. Each of the pieces of the credit equation shown in the video are depicted as what a typical homeowner thinks of them as. Money is shown as dollar bills, houses are houses, and fat investment bankers are fat investment bankers. There are no abstract bars or lines, only real, concrete objects that are instantly familiar to the viewer. Combined with the simple narration, this visual style effectively presents the viewer with all of the information they need to know to understand the situation without confusing them with too much detail and clutter.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Recession Visualization


This visualization shows the prediction of when the current recession is going to end for each state. All the states are categorized into four different colors based on the various recession periods. Viewers can easily identify each state's prediction from the color sequence designed for classification. Because red and green are opponent colors of each other, we tend to see the distinction more easily when we process the information in our brain. In addition, shading technique is also used in this visualization to define each area apart from another. It looks like California has one more quarter to go before getting out of this recession.

Scales and proportions


http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/2008-09-25-bailout-comparison_N.htm

This visualization is also similar to the video we saw in class today about Obama's stimulus bailout plan. Here the $700 billion is laid in perspective with other economic expenditures incurred by the U.S government since the last 40 years. It is shocking to see how much spending was made toward education and health affairs.

I like this visualization for its simplicity and ease of use. There is little cognitive load while trying to make sense of the data. Both data-graphs as well as figures are available to the viewer and especially the changing numbers are pre-attentively processed because they pop-out.

Visual Guide to the Financial Crisis


(Click for larger)

Like another fellow student of mine, I enjoy flow charts as a means of visualizing data. Not only are they easy to understand, but there's significant room for humor (which also helps me in recalling it). The above visualization is a good example of this. It's length requires scrolling to be necessary, but for a chart such as this, it is appropriate and doesn't detract from it. It's color usage is also simple, but the words are legible, and the shapes would still be distinguishable to the color blind (however it would affect its aesthetic, since it's a predominantly green chart). The light color and black text make it easy to read as well. Color and shape differences are also well used in differentiating the actual flow chart, and the quotes that exist alongside it, which are pink and are shaped as speech bubbles.

Original: http://flowingdata.com/2008/11/25/visual-guide-to-the-financial-crisis/

Machiavellian Web


I am staunch believer in Machiavellian Politics. Nowhere is this more evident than in the personal and monetary connections between lobbyists and our political representatives. The visualization (http://assets.sunlightfoundation.com/images/blog/infographics/finance_committee/map/index.html) I chose shows the contributions by health sector, the lobbyist's connections to health related companies, and the representative the lobbyist had worked for but is now currently trying to influence- a true Machiavellian Web.

  • Representation: the visualization encodes the relation among the lobbyists and representatives by lines connecting those two entities.
  • Presentation: the visualization has panning (the smooth, continuous movement of a viewing frame over a 2D image) and zooming (the smooth, continuous magnification of a 2D image).
  • Interaction: the visualization spans Norman's Action Cycle. Briefly, the viewer intends to use the visualizaiton to understand the monetary contributions by zooming on the data in the bottom left (Gulf of Execution). After perceiving, interpreting, and evaluating the data (Gulf of Evaluation), the user undertakes "opportunistic browsing" and discovers that the monetary contributions are connected to people, thus reformulating his/her goal and beginning the Action Cycle over again in an attempt to understand and appreciate the intricate "web."


Visualizing Obama's $780 Billion Stimulus Plan

While we can know all the details of Obama's Stimulus Plan to get us out of this recession, it's hard for us to imagine just how BIG is $780 billion dollars. Similar to the video that was presented to us in class, using pennies as a representation of a bundle of dollars, the following visualization uses the same technique to represent this $780 billion bundle. I personally like these kind of visualizations because it turns into something that our minds have no imagination for into something that we can comprehend. To me, it's almost more powerful than numbers, bars, circles, and colors. I can calculate percentages, but because I have never seen $780 billions of cash in front of me, it's hard for me to really capture the enormity of $780 billion, other than the obvious meanings of the number 780 and the word billion.






....and this is barely half of $780 billion dollars.

GDP Measured via Administration


     This visualization shows average yearly job growth percentages and average yearly GDP growth percentages, separated based on administration. Although the visualization is informative, the manner in which the data is presented could be improved upon. At a glance, it is difficult to determine the magnitude in which one circle is larger than the other, such as the GDP value of 4.85 compared to 3.3 .
     It is more difficult for a viewer to gauge the difference between circle sizes, than it is to a different visualization style such as a bar graph. However, the ordering of largest to smallest from top to bottom is a good feature of this visualization; as opposed to a chronological ordering in which Clinton would be placed above Bush, which would cause more confusion when glancing at circle sizes to obtain a brief idea of the overall visualization.

Economic Visualization

StudentLoansByTheNumbers4

I personally like flow charts, and this visualization of the cost of student loans was no exception. It relies on text more than color or some type of graphing, but it still manages to stay interesting through the different fonts and styles that are applied to the text, and the visual additives such as the Post-it notes and beer can.

This may not be as easy to glean information from at first glance than other types of visualizations, but when I consider the alternative (a giant paragraph of text), I would much rather look at something like this than a wall of text. Here important numbers and percentages stick out a lot more, and it’s generally easier to read.

Source: Mint.com - Student Loans By The Numbers

Economic Stress
























This visualization creatively displays the US's economic stress index based on unemployment, foreclosures, and bankruptcy. Instead of simply having a table with columns city and ESI for instance, by using a map, viewers can immediately recognize which states are suffering the most by shade of color. According to the key, as the brown fades, the ESI gets better and as it darkens, it gets worse. At first glance, overall it's clear that the west coast states, California, Oregon, and Washington are suffering the most compared to the rest of the US. It's also helpful that a handful of major cities are labeled as well, "pop out", for easier comparison, but there are certainly improvements which can be made.

Three variables are taken into consideration, but a viewer is unable to determine the percentage contribution of each individual variable. If a viewer is interested in a particular city, like mentioned, only a few are labeled, so it would be very difficult to obtain that information. To solve this, the visualization could be interactive- when the viewer scrolls over a city, have a pop up box to display city and ESI breakdown. There's obviously a lot of information and this visualization could utilize suppression of information as well.

Is our real estate situation in recovery?


This is an infographic from mint.com showing Year over year percent change in properties sold. The first graph shows the change during quarter 3 between 2008 and 2009. The second graph shows the change during quarter 4 between 2008 and 2009. The data shows that the Q3 change was quite bad, but Q4 has a much better outlook.

This graphic is very visual and relies on little text. The usage of color will be a problem for as much as 10% of male viewers, especially since the graphic primarily uses red and green colors. There is no supporting data on the graph and the differences in colors will be hard for color bind users to see. A second, but more minor problem with this visualization is in color similarity/grouping. The green shown on Kentucky will be perceived as a slightly different color than that of New Jersey. I think the white borders used will help alleviate this problem, but it is still something that should have been taken into more consideration by the original designers of the visualization.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Today's Recession vs. The Great Depression

These are a set of visualizations from the NY Times, comparing US unemployment rates from different economic recessions, including today's current recession, as well as the great depression.


In the first graph, we can see that the current unemployment rate has already surpassed the average of all post-WWII recessions. Although scary looking at first, the second graph puts things into perspective when comparing today's rate with other greater recessions.


In this second graph, we can see that the unemployment increases so far in this recession (purple line) have still been well under the average of those for all the inter-war recessions (red line), and significantly lower than the rate during the great depression.

The major differences that emerge from the data are due to the order of magnitude and duration of the Great Depression. Although we can’t fully see how the current episode will compare until we begin to turn the corner on the current slump and move from job losses to a steady rate of job creation. As far as the graphs themselves, they are easily readable and intuitive to understand. It is easy to comprehend the data at a glance and see the clear difference in rates for each time period.

The Geography of a Recession



This video shows a series of visualizations depicting the unemployment rate of each county in the United States. The visualizations, which is a picture of the United States split into different counties, shows the increase in the unemployment rate starting in January 2007 - October 2009. The visualization uses color to show how high or low the unemployment rate is in the county with white and yellow representing a low unemployment rate (0 - 2.5%) and dark red and purple representing a high unemployment rate (7.5% - ??%).

There isn't too much wrong with the visualization; in fact the only problem that I can spot is that the visualization doesn't do the best job of labeling. The dates are easy to spot out (February 2008), but the number below that isn't labeled (4.7%) and it took a second look to realize what the number represented, the average unemployment rate in the US. Each individual visualization of the United States is 'valuable' with regards to the amount of information that it shows you, but showing each visualization over time is what makes the visualizations even more 'valuable.' Using color and time you can clearly see the relationship between unemployment and the recession; you can see that the majority of the map is yellow from 2007-2008, but from the middle of 2008 - October 2009 you can clearly see the map get more red/purple.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Recession and Recovery

I'm not sure where I first saw this chart, and hopefully it wasn't in class. This visualization was released by The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

The visualization is an interactive one and lets the user view different recession trends from any of the 11 years of separate recessions. By selecting a year, it is added to the chart, along with a black diamond to represent the point of recovery.

In this view, the chart does a good job displaying and comparing a few trends, especially with the addition of a point of recovery.
In the screenshot to the left, it is easy to infer that the current recession has changed far more than the 1981 and 2001 recessions. In addition, we can also infer that the point of recovery took longer to come about, suggesting that the current recession will take longer to recover from in the long run. The only thing noticeable in this view is the colors used for each year. Instead of having an entirely separate legend for the years, it may be easier to combine the year selection and the legend into one. This way, once users select a year, they automatically know what color it will be in on the chart. This removes the need for the user to do two steps instead of one. In addition, this tactic also saves space. Another note is the colors used to depict each year. Some of the colors used are very difficult to tell apart (Ex: two shades of orange used for 1948 and 1973). The color used for 1960 appears to be the same as the background of the chart, making it hard to read when selected. The color used for 1969 is hard to see on the background as a whole. The colors themselves are difficult to remember and keep track of. Since the chart is interactive, it may benefit the user if they could simply rollover a line on the chart, and the chart tell them which year their looking at. This way, users are only concerned with colors for the years that they are currently looking at.

The aesthetics and easy use of the chart really begin to breakdown when the user decides to view all of the years at once. To the left is a screenshot of this exact situation. As anyone can see, the lines are extremely cluttered and the different shades of colors, really become apparent and difficult to differentiate. For this kind of view, a more generalized version would be easier to compare all of the different years. This view also amplifies all of the problems discussed earlier. Colors that are alike become especially difficult to differentiate, such as the orange hues of 1948 and 1973. In the chart they cross paths and it becomes difficult to follow the lines for each year.





The visualization tries to simply some of the views by adding a separate view, just for viewing the recoveries. Recoveries are shown as the time after a point of recovery. Again, this view is ideal for comparing a few years against one another, but fails when comparing all years together.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Global Recession Status

(Figure 1, June, 2009)



(Figure 2, May, 2010)


The above visualizations represent the global recession trend from the mid 2009 to nowadays. Obviously, the figure 1 shows many countries were in recession which indicated with red color in June, 2009. The audiences could recognize only few Asia countries were expanding at the same time, such as China, India and some South-East Asia countries. After a year, the global economy has been recovering in most of the recession regions. The figure 2 would give us the clear picture on the global recession status In May, 2010. Comparing to figure 1 and figure 2, those countries in recession in the figure 1 have become recovering in the figure 2. In the meanwhile, some countries in the moderating condition in the figure 1 have become recovering , or even expanding in the figure 2. That's probably a good signal about the global recession period have been over soon, and the global economy is getting better and better. From those two pictures, the recession effect is shown perfectly with mapping the theme with color representations.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Employment Population Ratio














This is a good representation for the data it is representing. There are colored arrows that highlight the change that the creator of the visualization intended for the audience to see. It brings the users eyes right to it with the pop of red. It may be harder to distinguish if the audience were color-blind, but there really isn't much else that could be done for this visualization. Some improvements that could be made would be to make it interactive. Maybe a hovering mouse that could more clearly show the year and percent, or even some kind of zoom to see the smaller fluctuations. The visualization is good in general, but it could be improved slightly by interaction.

Employment affected by recessions

This is a good visualization for observing and comparing employment rates in the given years. The visualization gives the reader a clear sense of comparison between various recessions and depressions, mainly the 'Great Depression' of the late 1920s and the current recession of 2007. The visualization also gives sufficient information relating to unemployment during those times by providing background stories of that time and other historic events or breakthrough that occurred simultaneously during the years of the recession/depression. The use sad-looking human figures to represent the data of unemployed people in the country in the form of a percentage is a very visually appealing manner to convey the information rather than using the conventional bar graph to represent the same data.

The length of the lines during the years of the Great Depression indicate the high amounts of unemployment that existed during those days with quite a variation between many of the years in that time frame. Another embedded visualization indicating the current recession allows an acute comparison between any/all the years of the Great Depression in contrast to the current years of the recession.

The visualization doesn't host a variety of colors but instead tries to capture the viewer's attention by the use of red human figures to represent data. The use of various distinct colors to represent the same data would allow viewers to easily associate a color with the said year or economic condition and thus reduce analysis time providing the viewer with immediate results. Background information is considered optional and complementary to the actual data of the unemployment rate and is thus marked with a dull color thus further focusing the viewer's attention on the actual data itself.

Considering that only an extreme minority of the population suffers from extreme color-blindness in which they cannot recognize the color 'Red' at all, the use of red for displaying critical information is a good choice. However, various colors could be used to represent varying levels and ranges of unemployment thus allowing viewers to easily group those levels of unemployment and compare them with other groups as well as unemployment percentages for various years over the period othe current recession or the Great Depression.

An alternate version, portraying critical data representation, for color-blind people should also be available in order to serve the visualization to color-blind people as well.

The picture is sufficient in its level of simplicity as it only displays one form of information while also allowing viewers to easily compare various value across years and time periods. The information is static thus allowing no human interaction and is thus always guaranteed to have consistency in its information portrayal.

Housing Bubble

From about 2004~2009 a number of people and blogger's surfaced foretelling of a massive housing bubble. At the time popular opinion was that housing prices NEVER go down and that houses where an investment vehicle with no downside because unlike stock they always have value and will never be worth $0.

Those claiming the housing market was in a bubble that would eventually come crashing down used the following two examples to demonstrate their point.

This was produced using Shiller of the Case-Shiller index, an authority in tracking housing. The following shows that since World War II housing prices adjusted for inflation have floated around 110% of the 1890 value. While prices have spiked up from time to time they always come back down to the 110% level. At the time I originally saw this it 2005 it had not yet come down, but the poster believed it was in for a large shift downward. Currently the poster is using it to indicate when they feel the housing market will finally level off, and prices will stop declining somewhere around 2013~2014.

This is another graph, in blue is the median home price in the US in actual dollars. The red line is the same value only adjusted for inflation. The thin blue and thin red lines are what the poster believes is the normal trajectory of home prices which it follows very closely until 2000. The poster believes the prices still have a little bit farther to fall before they line up with their normal trajectory and can begin to increase modestly like the previously did before the bubble.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Visualizing the World's Concentration of Wealth


The visualization above is from http://www.visualizingeconomics.com. It roughly depicts the approximate ownership of money in the world economy, applying each percentage point out of 100 as one of a 100 people in a village. This method of statistical representation is very simple and easy to understand, as the thought of a small village of 100 people seems less daunting than imagining the percentages on a worldwide scale. In terms of color, the color scheme used is also simple and easy on the eyes. The use of a pig as a symbol for piggy bank along with 3 colors used delivers the statistics in a simple yet complete fashion. The black/pink contrast is akin with the "mud" on the pig and is representative of the percentage of money that is "shared" in the world.

Economic Visualization



This visualization shows the projected 2010 GDP growth in 40 selected countries. Because the global economy is performing better than it has been in recent years, most of the countries have a positive year-to-year change in GDP. In the map, countries with a dark orange color are among the fast growers. Countries in a dark blue are those with severely declining annual GDPs. If a country is white, light grey, or a light tan color then that country has little growth, no growth, or a small decline in GDP. Countries that are a dark grey color are not represented by this visualization.

In class we learned that about 10% of people are color blind, most to red and green. This visualization does a good job of creating opposite ends of the color spectrum because orange and blue are rarely mixed up. Most people who are color blind have the M-cone defect. In this defect blue and orange are easily distinguishable. There should be no problem in telling orange and blue apart, even if you are color blind.

Europe's Web of Debt

I came across this visually appealing network/star diagram which does a pretty good job at revealing Europe's major financial crisis regarding debt owed between the major European economies. The creator's of this visualization did a good job at representing the data presented by this graphic by using proportion mapping correctly. IE> The size of each of the circles and arrows grow and shrink according to the amount of debt owed to the other countries. This visualization also does a good job with use of colors in that each of the 5 different European countries are presented as different colors, which helps with easy identification of the 5 different countries. The text presented on this diagram is also easy to distinguish and view because of the good combinations of text colors meshed with background colors. Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with this visualization and the way it presents the data.


Figure 1: Europe's Web of Debt

The Next Blog Assignment: Due May 12

We seem to be coming out of one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression. Of course, economic issues are always ripe for visualizations. Please try to find visualizations about economic issues, such as the current recession, the Great Depression, or other interesting trends. When you post your visualization, please comment on its value or its faults, referring to specific material covered either in the textbooks or in class presentations. Keep your comments to a paragraph or two. We’ll expect to see your entries no later than 5 pm on Wednesday, May 12.