Week 4

Information Visualization



T
here are a lot of different ways to visualize different types of information so we are going to spend some time looking at some of the variety.

Last week we saw a bunch of examples of how design can get in the way of understanding, but design is not the enemy - it can be very valuable when used well. The goal is to help people relate data to each other and to other things that the viewer already understands to make the new data easier to put into context, and to make it more usable and actionable.

Context is a word that is going to be used often week.

Back in Week 1 we took a look at the classic John Snow Cholera visualization. How does cholera compare to other infectious diseases. This modern scatter plot gives us some context, relating contagiousness to deadliness, and color coding by primary method of transmission.

And a modern visualization comparing different infectious diseases as a basic labelled scatterplot but with the interactive features we expect today
https://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/the-microbescope-infectious-diseases-in-context/

Microbescope


Next is a nice static visualization of different espressos - its basically a stacked bar chart showing the different amounts of espresso, milk, water, etc. but with some extra graphical elements that don't get in the way of the data - you can still use a ruler to measure the amounts.

visualization of contents of
      different types of espresso
previously available at http://www.lokeshdhakar.com/2007/08/20/an-illustrated-coffee-guide/

a related chart with more data relating caffeine and calories is below - its basically a scatter plot but with more meaningful icons at the points and other helpful contextual information at the sides - https://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/caffeine-and-calories/

The Bizz vs the Bulge - 2d
      chart of cafffeine vs calories for different foods and drinks


and how about the growth in the number of Crayola Crayons where the number of colours doubles every 28 years. Here color, and the increasing variety of colors is the focus of the chart.

growth in the number of colors for Crayola crayons over the
      years
from https://slate.com/business/2014/10/crayola-chart-how-many-crayon-colors-have-been-added-to-crayola-box-since-1903.html


Lets take a look at some examples on visualizing text:

tagCrowd - https://tagcrowd.com/

e.g. a tagCrowd comparison of the 50 most used words from the first inaugural presidential address where words that are said more often are larger
Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan, Bush sr., Clinton, Bush jr, Obama, Trump


 
 
 
 



In the case of Kennedy's speech at the upper left, 'power', the most prominent work was spoken 9 times, while the smallest words in the tag such as 'earth' were spoken twice, and not all of the words used twice made it into the tag.


There are variations on this where the words are at all different angles, and in random order, and in random colors such as https://www.wordclouds.com/
Keeping the text horizontal makes it more readable, and picking an order like alphabetical order makes it easier to search for words across the different sets.


The full texts can be found at: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/inaugurals.php

A site doing similar things to US presidential speeches over time through 2007 - http://chir.ag/projects/preztags/
this is nice as it allows a user to brush through these overviews of the text quickly to see what were the important issues of the day.

In these cases the visualizations dealt with simple words rather than common phrases, which may be more useful, but require a bit more intelligence to process.



Which leads us into some more dynamic information visualization tools that allow the user to interact with the data and put data into context.

DiskInventoryX or SupaView on the Mac and  WinDirStat on Windows can be used to see relative file sizes on disk using treemaps, flattening out the directory hierarchies but keeping the hierarchies visible as nested boxes, and color-coding by file type. It would be better to avoid the 3D highlighting affects - http://www.cs.umd.edu/hcil/treemap-history/index.shtml

Once the treemap is drawn the user can click on a large (or small) box and see it identified in the hierarchy, or click on part of the hierarchy and see its area. Its easy to explore the larger files, but much harder to explore the smallest ones, unless one restricts the map to only a subset of the hierarchy. This makes treemaps a very useful tool if the size of the box is directly related to its importance - and in the case of the question 'what happened to all my disc space?' that is very often true.

Here 2D squares are sized appropriately, as opposed to some of the designs we looked at last week, so they do give the user a good sense of how much space various types of files take up, from many small emails or music files to large virtual machines or movies. Human beings are pretty good at understanding the relative sizes of squares and estimating how many of this square can fit into that one, where we are less good at doing that with triangles, or circles, or barrels, or spheres.
Tree map of
                files in a multi-level directory


A similar styled chart looking at relative amounts of dollars spent (or lost) on various things is The Billion Dollar Gram allows people to compare things that they may not normally think about comparing - depending on what a user is familiar with. Unlike the space on a hard drive there is no 'total' number here, just a variety of costs being compared by their areas.

https://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/the-billion-dollar-gram/
The Billion
              Dollar Gram

BBC
              treemap of top internet sites The BBC used to have a nice flash-based treemap of the top 100 sites on the internet - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8562801.stm



Newsmap of currently
              covered news topics Newsmap (flash-based) previously showed the news of the moment in a similar style where more important news items are shown larger, and all are color coded by topic - http://newsmap.jp




When adding time into the mix things get more complicated - a theme river is an area chart that has brought a bunch of friends along helping to show context in time rather than seeing specific events in isolation.
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2008/02/23/movies/20080223_REVENUE_GRAPHIC.html

Theme River of
      Hollywood films



NY Times billboard
              ranking comparison NY times (flash-based) Billboard Rankings page was a nice way to compare different singers over the decades in terms of how their songs were charting in relation to each other  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/06/25/arts/0625-jackson-graphic.html?hp



How Americans are
              spending their time by hour in the day There is another version of this where all of the different flows at up to 100% all of the time. For example What are people doing in Japan (java-based)?
http://www.xoxosoma.com/tokyo-tuesday/

and a similar one showing
how people in the US spend their days (flash-based):
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/07/31/business/20080801-metrics-graphic.html?hp

and a version that breaks this same data out into separate graphs:
http://projects.flowingdata.com/timeuse/



name voyager allows a user to investigate how common different names have been over the last 150 years - http://www.babynamewizard.com/voyager
Popularity of
              different first names over time

xkcd did a nice combination of name data and chicken pox data -
https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/chicken_pox_and_name_statistics.png


Popularity of different jobs over time job voyager (flash-based) used to exist at http://flare.prefuse.org/apps/index
looking at how common different jobs have been over the past 150 years

but there is a not-quite-as-good version available at: https://vega.github.io/vega/examples/job-voyager/



and another nice one related to the the popularity of different media for selling music - which were popular at the same time, which began replacing another, which were never popular at all - http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2009/08/01/opinion/01blow.ready.html
Popularioty of different media for playing music



Traffic Fatality Visualization by John Nelson takes traffic fatality data and uses heat maps to show it relative to time of day, day of the week, month of the year, and geographically (more on geospatial visualization in a couple weeks). Overall patterns are visible at a high level but people can look closer to get actual data values and percentages.
http://uxblog.idvsolutions.com/2012/12/five-years-of-traffic-fatalities.html







Two visualizations of global average temperatures - on the left a more traditional plot, and on the right Ed Hawkins' Warming Stripes for 1850 to 2018, using a diverging color scheme (blue for below average, white for average, red for above average) to color the lines. While the traditional plot is good for people who understand plots and charts, the warming stripes may be a better way to show the same data, without distorting it, to a lay audience, simultaneously showing the overall trend and the complexity in the data while being suitable for a lapel pin or a T-shirt or an on-line account photo. Visualizations don't need to be limited to paper or screens.

Adding a title and x-axis labels and a legend would turn the Warming Stripes into a more serious visualization, but the data visualization itself is solid with a good choice of colors and long lines that make the slight differences in some of the colors visible

   Warming Stripes

(images from http://berkeleyearth.org/2018-temperatures/ and Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warming_stripes)

(data from http://berkeleyearth.lbl.gov/auto/Global/Land_and_Ocean_summary.txt)


similarly this animation below is good for getting a visceral feel for the data it represents

Growth of Target stores
              around the US (flash-based) growth of target (earthquake data is often visualized the same way) - http://projects.flowingdata.com/target/
we will talk more about animation later in the course. This one is nice and simple - just red circles (appropriate for Target) on a very basic map of the US with state boundaries and some major geographic features. This one is very good for getting a visceral feel for the rate of expansion and the locations, but for more numeric comparisons it would be good to augment this with a graph showing how many stores open per year across the country or in different regions

Below is a interesting way of visualizing the distance to nearby stats from http://strangemaps.wordpress.com/ in terms of what Earth programs they are just receiving (now a few years out of date) but still putting a set of distances that are hard to understand into a temporal context that may be easier to understand:

and a variant with radio - http://lightyear.fm
What TV programs are
              other star systems receiving

and a little closer to home, the history of Earth reduced to 24 hours from http://www.geology.wisc.edu converting time scales that we have very little sense of into a time scale that we are more used to.




London Underground Map by Harry Beck

Its more of a diagram than a map, as geography is less important than visibility and consistency, so we are going to talk about it here, rather than in the Geospatial notes.

London
        Underground Diagram

and a shorter 4 minute excerpt:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bg3pfUqdLp4

and you can see the history of the maps at:
https://londonist.com/2016/05/the-history-of-the-tube-map

Compare this map of the CTA
https://www.transitchicago.com/assets/1/6/ctamap_Lsystem.png

to these maps of the CTA

CTA L train map CTA Map

Line Map

London Underground
        Line Map


Harry Beck's design is still evident in the live NY subway visualization at https://map.mta.info/



Much of what was shown above had the data already filtered and the visualizations were created to illuminate specific trends in the data. But if you are starting to look at a dataset with a bunch of different dimensions how do you get a handle on it. Statistics can be one place to start, but it can also help to try and get an overview of the data in all the various dimensions at once,

A couple ways to do this are Parallel Coordinates and Scatterplot Matrices (sploms)

Lets take a look at the classic Motor Trend Car dataset which has 406 observations on the following 8 variables / dimensions:

Some of these are continuous variables (MPG, displacement, horsepower, weight, acceleration time)
Some are discrete variables (# cylinders, model year)
And one is categorical with no natural ordering (origin)

With Parallel Coordinates each variable (e.g. MPG, Cylinders) becomes a column (e.g. low MPG at the bottom of the column to high MPG at the top of the column) and a particular car becomes a segmented line crossing all of those columns at the appropriate point in each column.

With a scatter plot matrix each variable is shown on the horizontal and vertical axis and we can see how pairs of variables relate to each other in their own 2D scatterplot, e.g. I can compare MPG to Horsepower, MPG to Weight, Horsepower VS Weight, etc.) and see how they relate.

Both allow me to brush and select a subset of the data and see it reflected across the dimensions. For example on the Parallel Coordinates example only 8 cylinder cars are selected (in red) showing that those tend to have lower MPG, more horsepower, more weight, lower acceleration, built across many years, but only in the USA. Similarly on the Scatterplot Matrix the 8 cylinder cars are selected (in red) and you can see those cars in all the other views.

Parallel coordinates in
              xmdvtool Scatterplot matrix in
              xmdvtool

Both of these techniques work when you have a small number of dimensions, or a dataset that you can reduce to a small number of dimensions.


R has these capabilities

in R you can get a list of the pre-installed datasets with
data()


once you have some data

pairs gives you a scatterplot matrix, e.g.  for the car dataset, pairs(~mpg+cyl+disp+wt,data=mtcars)


you can also use color to show subset of the data e.g. isHeavy <- ifelse(mtcars$wt > 4, "red", "grey")
and then pairs(~mpg+cyl+disp+wt,data=mtcars, col=isHeavy)

to show the heavier cars in red




library(MASS) gives you access to a parallel coordinate plot


parcoord gives you a parallel coordinates plot, e.g. parcoord(mtcars [, c("mpg", "cyl", "disp", "wt")], var.label = TRUE)

again you can use color to highlight the heavier cars in the same way
with parcoord(mtcars [, c("mpg", "cyl", "disp", "wt")], var.label = TRUE, col = isHeavy)







This week I'd like everyone to try using scatterplot matrices and parallel coordinates in a Jupyter notebook with R to look at the home utility dataset from Week 2.

Take a look at Year, Month, Temp_F, Gas_Th_per_Day, Water_Gals_per_Day, E_kWh_per_Day columns overall, and then color the data in the various views based on several different independent filters: the year 2013, the month of May, hot days, cold days, days that used the most electricity, and days that used the most water, and explain what you see for each in both the parallel coordinate plot and the scatterplot matrix views


Again you should print out a copy of your notebook to a PDF and turn that in via Gradescope.




Coming Next Time

Geospatial Visualization


last revision 1/29/21