Sunday, March 9, 2008

Interactive Information Visualization: UN's release of millions of data records

I want access to great interactive information and data visualization content, anywhere, anytime, on any type of display!

As more publicly-held data becomes released, ordinary people, not just scholars and university students, will want to get their hands on it, especially if it is done in a user-friendly manner.

Below is something I posted on Ryan Lanham's
Leading as Enabling blog, after learning about it from the EagerEyes website.

After I uploaded this post, I started to think about how interactive information visualization "for the people" could be played out in the day-to-day lives of people- as they shop, visit historical settings, attend cultural events, and so forth.

The optimization of web-based interactive information visualization applications for use on iPhones, PDA's, large multi-touch displays, interactive whiteboards, public kiosks, navigation systems, and the like, is something that deserves further work!


Robert Kosara, author of the Eager Eyes blog, recently posted information about the United Nation's release of data records for public download and use:

"Data is being set free: the United Nations have started a new website called UN Data to share the data collected by a number of UN agencies. 55 million data records are waiting to be explored and visualized. The search interface is very nice and usable, but still lacks power."

Why is the release of this data important?

Every day, people in leadership positions must make decisions based on the accurate interpretation of data. If the data is difficult to understand or presented in a way that might be confusing to some, the likelihood of negative consequences is high.

Those in leadership positions historically have had access to data, collected with public funds, but often inaccessible to the public. Publicly available data is often in a format that is not easy to organize, manipulate, or understand. As a result, many people do not have a means to fully scrutinize, or question, the decisions made by business, health, education, and government leaders.

The Gapminder website is one example of the movement to make data accessible and easier to understand. Hans Rosling, the director of Gapminder, provides an interesting overview about this in the video below, from his presentation at TED:

"This software unveils the beauty of statistical time series by converting boring numbers into enjoyable, animated and interactive graphics. The current beta version of Trendalyzer is available since March 2006 as
Gapminder World, a web-service displaying a few time series of development statistics for all countries."

"Gapminder is a non-profit venture for development and provision of free software that visualize human development. This is done in collaboration with universities, UN organizations, public agencies and non-governmental organizations."

High resolution Gapcasts and video lectures can be and found on the Gapminder website. Gapcasts are also available on YouTube.

Information and Data Visualization for the People:

"Many Eyes is a bet on the power of human visual intelligence to find patterns. Our goal is to "democratize" visualization and to enable a new social kind of data analysis."

"Swivel: Where Curious People Explore Data"

Breakthrough Analysis: Make Your Data Tell a Story (Seth Grimes)

-Lynn Marentette

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