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The Week In Data

Our weekly round-up of the best of data on the web.

by Paule d'Atha On September 13, 2012

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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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The writer Jack Kerouac hammered out his famous novel On the Road in three weeks using a typewriter and a 35 metre long roll of taped-together sheets of tracing paper. The book’s origins gave Stefanie Posavec (who previously worked with David McCandless on the infographic Left/Right) the idea for this beautiful infographic.

The technique is simple: every word of the book is represented by a 0.85 mm line, and for each new sentence the line takes a right turn. Each subject is given a colour. The result is simply fascinating.

Walmart Nation

The Walmart Invasion is an infographic focusing on the “small” US supermarket which spearheaded the rise of super-consumption on the other side of the Atlantic. A financial journalist’s dataset containing the location of every Walmart store in the US, along with their opening date, forms the basis for this and several other projects. Most impressively, the biostatistician Corey Chivers makes use of R software to create a visualisation of the evolution of the opening of Walmart stores over time. The result is pretty…ugly, but it’s effective, and the intention is there.

The Facebook Vote

Facebook and CNN have combined to deliver their “insights” into the US presidential election by means of this interactive red, white and blue application. It tracks the chatter about candidates Obama and Romney (as well as their running mates) on Zuck’s social network. It’s nothing revolutionary (this is CNN after all), but it’s done right. If sheer volume of mentions on Facebook is indeed anything to go by, it looks like the race for the White House will go down to wire.

Inside the Bubble

The New York Times take on the elections comes in the form of this beautiful data visualisation which lays out how the “path to victory” might be built. Each state is represented by a colour (blue for Obama, red for Romney) of different intensity according to the “solidity” of the vote there for either candidate. According to the various scenarios, we can explore the state of play for both parties: where are the states that could tip the balance, what was the behaviour of those key states four years ago, etc.

The Times covered the Republican convention using lexical analysis, beautifully rendered in…more bubbles!

The principle: recover verbatim all the speeches of the GOP’s grand party from the Federal News Service and display the concepts, themes and personalities that were mentioned in a simple visualisation. It’s beautiful and fun for all attention spans – you can just amuse yourself moving the bubbles around if you so wish.

Our last piece of bubble-based brilliance, this infographic about the Paralympic Games concocted by the Daily Telegraph. Technically less impressive than the previous two visualisations (with a particularly regrettable use of Flash), it’s still based on the honourable intention of providing a summary of the information. Which is still the primary task of this type of service. Impressively, the application also updates every five minutes.

‘That tiny pea, pretty and blue’

NASA is not just about high-res photos of Mars or photoshopped pictures of the far reaches of the universe. One of the many satellites NASA has in orbit is a tireless provider of big data, which is then processed and animated by the Scientific Visualization Studio (SVS).

Among their many projects is the fascinating ECCO, for Estimated Circulation and Climate of the Oceans, which we told you about back in April. ECCO attempts to understand how ocean currents function by employing mathematical models and bold visuals. The result is the mesmerising (short) film Perpetual Ocean.

The head of the SVS further explains the ins and outs of the project in an interview with Mashable.

Oil crisis? What oil crisis?

This data-driven animation from the Post Carbon Institute takes on those who argue that we haven’t reached peak oil. They offer an alternative narrative, making use of their undeniable talent for storytelling.

And finally – after this it’s over, we promise – this 28th edition of The Week In Data is fulsomely dedicated to the indefatigable Marie Coussin (#FF @mariecoussin) who for the past 18 months has been a driving force behind data journalism here at Owni, and is now continuing her journey along a new path. So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish.

Have a great data-week!


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