Visualising Data 130707


Yesterday,  I wrote about Gregory Crewdson.
I am not sure if the documentary had primed me to be on the look out for visualisations of data but I found three interesting examples this week.

Three Visualisations

Battle of Gettysburg
The first is the Smithsonian’s Cutting-Edge Second Look at the Battle of Gettysburg. In the post that shares the second look, Anne Kelly Knowles notes that “the technological limits of surveillance during the American Civil War dictated that commanders often decided where to deploy their troops based largely on what they could see”. She asks “What more might we learn about this famous battle if we put ourselves in commanders’ shoes, using today’s digital technology to visualize the battlefield and see what they could see?”
This approach reminded me of Philippe Mongin’s paper, A Game-Theoretic Analysis of the Waterloo Campaign and Some Comments on the Analytic Narrative Project.
Anne, researcher Dan Miller and cartographer Alex Tait worked together to provide this perspective.

Alex recreated the 1863 terrain based on a superb map of the battlefield from 1874 and present-day digital data. Dan and I captured troop positions from historical maps. Our interactive map shows Union and Confederate troop movements over the course of the battle, July 1 – 3, 1863. Panoramic views from strategic viewpoints show what commanders could – and could not – see at decisive moments, and what Union soldiers faced at the beginning of Pickett’s Charge. You will also find “viewshed” maps created with GIS (Geographic Information Systems). These maps show more fully what was hidden from view at those key moments.

Tour de France 2013
The second visualisation is of the 2013 Tour de France by Cycling the Alps.
I was interested to see the gamification option in this visualisation. The 3D Stage tour and the Stage game both require the Google earth plugin to run the visualisation.
AAR 214
The third visualisation took me to a new world of data. Earlier today, Charlie White posted data about the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 (AAR 214) crash landing in San Francisco. He noted Steve Baker’s use of the flight tracking website FlightAware to compare two approaches to the airport by the same flight number.
The Mashable post has prompted a robust exchange about the validity of these two data juxtapositions.
One comment noted: “The difference between Fri and Sat was wind direction. Today, the wind was extremely shifty, switching almost 180 deg, from N to S. The plane was landing with a sort of tail wind, which every pilot knows is not good. The SFO landing strip is at 135 deg, and the wind was from 210.”
There are other data available from FlightAware.
New Literacies?
Brief Encounters and these three visualisations raise some important issues about the literacies we need to use data rich visualisations. I am fascinated by the skills that deliver these visualisations.
One visualisation that has had an enormous impact on my thinking is the New York Time’s Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek. I learned with interest that the author John Branch had won a Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for the story.
In its nomination submission, The New York Times wrote:

Rarely, we suspect, has there ever been a more fully realized partnership of fine writing and state of the art multimedia put before the features jury, and we encourage you to experience the story the way our online readers did: by clicking on the link submitted here.

I wrote about Snow Fall at the time of its publication. It was a transformational moment for me as I thought about how to re-present data. These three recent examples shared here add to this changing environment.

Photo Credits

Frame grab from Brief Encounter trailer
Frame grab from Smithsonian post Cutting-Edge Second Look at the Battle of Gettysburg
Frame grab from Mashable post FlightAware Shows Path of Crashing Plane original image from Steve Baker.


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