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The Week In Data

The corruption in our world, the supremacy of ants and a little Chopin to set you at ease. All that and more in this week's super soaraway The Week In Data, brought to you by OWNI's dedicated data team.

by Paule d'Atha On December 12, 2011

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À propos de l'auteur

Paule d'Atha désigne l'équipe des journalistes de données d'Owni : Julien Goetz, Sylvain Lapoix et Nicolas Patte. Twitter @pdatha.


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First up this week we want you to take a few minutes out of your busy lives and turn the volume up on your computers.

Stephen Malinowski played the piano for two decades before beginning a career as a programmer. At the intersection of these two paths The Music Animation Machine was born, a phenomenal visualization concept achieved using a simple piece of software that Malinowski himself created. Enjoy the results below with Frédéric Chopin’s famous Nocturne opus 9 No. 2 in E flat major, composed when he was just twenty years old. And we strongly encourage you to explore the geometric universe of Malinowski, after which your dreams will be filled with circles, squares, diamonds and all the colors of the rainbow.

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”

You’re no doubt already aware of Transparency International, the NGO which fights against corruption around the world. They carry out investigations on the ground and bring the information to the attention of populations and the highest levels of states. Every year the organization publishes its Corruption Perception Index, and this year they’ve laid out all this data [zip] (collected via 17 sources within 13 institutions) in the form of an elegant datavisualization. Unsurprisingly, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark – along with New Zealand and…erm, Singapore – are the countries with the least corrupt governments in the world. We’ll let you discover who the 12 states at the wrong end of the index are.

The Proxy Platform is a fascinating piece of work from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a network of investigative journalists from Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This high-flying map highlights the enormous amount of research required to understand the most insidious mechanisms of corruption, falsification of identities – often at the expense of incriminated citizens – crooked politicians, phantom bankers and villains of all stripes. The principle behind the mapping is simple and effective: you have a “proxy”, a ghost-business and a bank. Then an explanatory bubble appears, containing an investigation to read. It’s an exciting and unique framework with which to interpret these networks of influence.

More humorous, but no less serious, is an initiative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) towards renewal in Tunisia. La Bourse de la Corruption (The Corruption Award) is a crowdsourcing and real-time visualization platform covering a fictitious series of acts of corruption that could be possible in a country in democratic transition. It looks into whether the “buying” of a football match is always more expensive than guaranteeing the untroubled passage of a container through customs, or if the “friendly” obtaining of a driver’s license is more or less equivalent to twenty times the bribe needed for the cancellation of a traffic fine. Tunisian readers are invited to contribute to this citizen’s application, but that’s not an attempt to corrupt them.

“To be or not be”

Getting away from corruption, here are two small datavisualizations about French politics that we enjoyed this week.

The first was brought to our attention by Anthony Veyssière (thank you to him) and concerns the French presidential elections – posing the question we’ve all been asking ourselves: who is the best tweeter?

ReTwhit2012 is a web application which “collates the tweets of French political figures via the Twitter API and ranks them based on the number of retweets they receive and by date”. It’s been submitted to the #Googleviz competition, and we wish Anthony the best of luck (not that he needs it) with this great project.

Another man who is no stranger to the field of hacking is LeMonde.fr data journalist Alexandre Léchenet, who spent some time working here at OWNI. He is most recently the co-creator of this map of the likely battleground constituencies in Paris in the upcoming election next spring. With a Google map, a little editing and some added context, here you have the state of the capital pared down and explained with clarity.

“He that dies pays all his debts”

We’ve previously pointed you towards the work of Jenn Finnas and his Occupy Wall Street map. Now we want to direct you to another of his projects: Who are the richest people in Finland? With a simple and uncluttered layout, Finn sheds some light on some facts revealed every November in Finland by the tax service (you know, the ones that aren’t corrupt). For example: those who work the most don’t earn the most. On the technical side of things, Finnas usually works in d3.js and Protovis, but created this project with Raphael.js.

It can’t have escaped your notice that we recently officially passed the 7 billion mark of human beings on Earth. This event has given rise to an avalanche of graphic ideas – some more successful than others, that we’ve sorted through here and there. This week, we’ve selected a new infographic entitled Seven Billion. Rest assured, if the title’s somewhat lacking in originality, it’s because it’s all been used up in the project itself: its “sci-fi” allure gives it a readability that’s not always common, and the data chosen to be compared is very relevant. Did you know, for example, that on our planet there is 350 million tons of human beings – which is 8.5 times less than the total mass of ants? Did you know that we, all seven billion of us, make up just 0.00018% of the Earth’s biomass, yet we use 20% of the resources of the soil on which we live? Find out more with this elegant visualization.

To complete this fifth edition of The Week In Data, we offer you a new Map Story as told by the ESRI. Our Global Footprint carefully positions the debtors and creditors of our global carbon footprint. These experts examine the available biocapacity (that is, nature’s ability to produce useful goods while at the same time absorbing our waste, such as carbon dioxide emissions) and weighs that up against our environmental impact.

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Find previous editions of The Week In Data!

Image Credits: Screenshots from the sites mentioned. Subheadings care of William Shakespeare.

Follow OWNI’s elite data squadron on Twitter: @pdatha, @gregoirenormand, @mariecoussin, @juliengoetz & @nicolaspatte

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