Information is beautiful

av thore
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Visualization may be the most powerful method for getting your message through. My all time favourite book is still The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte. The one visualization shown in this book which shook me the most may have been the one showing the size of Napoleon’s army on his March to Moscow (the link give you a smaller format in the poster listing on Tufte’s site). In this wonderful graph you get both the size of the army and the temperature they were experiencing plotted onto a map showing some of the historic places. And just a glimpse on the graph tells you that what started out as a giant army ended as a tiny squadron. No wonder Napoleon was not to popular on the return to France.

This way of presenting facts and figures is not only a technique. It’s an art-form which, when used properly, can give the presenter a best-possible position in discussion on facts. Also, it gives the reader, at least me, a fast track into understanding some concepts and reading up on some facts. So when a genius like David McCandless has a site with the nice name information is beautiful I just have to dive into it time and again to read myself up on more facts. Like the fact that females RULE – at least the social web.

He has also given us a wonderful presentation showing how, for instance, Norway is off target when it comes to fullfilling the goals of the Kyoto climate aggrement. For a Norwegian, this is not a fun fact. And with today’s presentation of the road ahead (hrmf, the agreement signed by the three political parties going for another 4 years in position) we may be even more off target after the Copenhagen talks.

Another, not so much fun, but wonderful presentation is the plot of Disease Case Fatality Rates for different well-known diseases. It strengthens my belief in the Swine-Flu as something which have turned into a hysteria out of all proportions due to media blasting and blaring. Sad when both Tubercolosis and AIDS is still around. Oh? Did someone say that these two diseases does not hit the “normal” people?

Years ago I travelled a lot – too much, really. And plane was a weekly business. These days I travel less. But when looking on ways for reducing the chances of dying in a plane crash it seems like my next trips should all be a) with me seated in the back of the plane (no trouble achieving that), b) on an Embraer plane (where the smuck can I find such planes here?), c) sometime in May (ok!) and d) going to Ecuador (was not planning on that). Maybe the airlines could study that visualization a bit.

More food for thought is found in McCandless’ variation on the hierarchy of needs by Maslow. The Hierarchy of Digital Distractions may be showing me the answer to why I am not working right now, at this minute.

PS.: And I have to poke at this one as well: death of the music industry.

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