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Political Information Visualization: What Works By Ken Norquist, December 2011.

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1 Political Information Visualization: What Works By Ken Norquist, December 2011

2 F rom the moment man first applied dye to cave walls to share hunting tips, as a species we've been on a journey to understand and share more, faster. We measure...we observe...we quantify and qualify, and constantly seek better ways to digest what we've learned and immortalize that knowledge by inventing new and increasingly dynamic ways to share it with others.

3 You need only look back as far as the early 19 th century to Leon Montigny's visualization of the Parisian Parliamentary Elections of 1869 (above) to see how powerful and influential these translated observations and examinations could be. Parisian Parliamentary Elections of 1869Parisian Parliamentary Elections of 1869 One of the most revisited and widely shared are those used to describe the political landscape whose players shape the world we live in.

4 Few areas of modern culture receive the same rigorous attention from both the powerful and the pawn, save perhaps financial market data, and as such there is a huge appetite for any information in the political arena—from poll results to policy effectiveness; history to headlines. With the advent of the internet and the vastly expanded connectivity it afforded us, new avenues sprang out of every corner offering analysis and perspectives of political issues.

5 Since , news organizations have seized upon this new frontier...this new public square, and begun a new datastory visualization arms race, where the major players such as are developing new, dynamic, interactive ways to tell their version of the datastory in support of their coverage of the wider political landscape.

6 Here, we’ll be taking a look at how political data is visualized through four clusters of visualizations: Infographics Infographics Dynamic Charting Visualizations Dynamic Charting Visualizations Cartographic Visualizations Cartographic Visualizations Other Visualizations Other Visualizations

7 Infographic Visualizations are identified as those visualizations which present a finite view of complex data in a quickly digestible way. Infographic Visualizations are identified as those visualizations which present a finite view of complex data in a quickly digestible way. Dynamic Charting Visualizations are identified as those which present complex data sets in malleable, dynamic ways that allow a great degree of user-controlled focus (Information Visualization Dashboards are included in this cluster). Dynamic Charting Visualizations are identified as those which present complex data sets in malleable, dynamic ways that allow a great degree of user-controlled focus (Information Visualization Dashboards are included in this cluster). Cartographic Visualizations are identified as those visualizations who allow for a similar level of user control, but visualize the altered results through a geographic or cartographic representation. Cartographic Visualizations are identified as those visualizations who allow for a similar level of user control, but visualize the altered results through a geographic or cartographic representation. Other Visualizations are those visualizations where the datastories being told are relevant and interesting, but the visualization or interaction styles being employed step just beyond the bounds of the other defined clusters Other Visualizations are those visualizations where the datastories being told are relevant and interesting, but the visualization or interaction styles being employed step just beyond the bounds of the other defined clusters

8 The Stories Being Told: What the Visuals Do Through immersion into this realm I was able to identify two major, overarching purposes that these somewhat disparate visualizations seek to serve: -General political climate information sharing -Election related information

9 First, as political topics hold the interests of citizens from every strata and corner of society, there is a large body of general political climate information sharing. This broad sector of the information visualization spectrum provides illustration of the data behind politically charged issues such as the economy, military actions, policy or law changes, international political affairs, hot button social issues, etc. First, as political topics hold the interests of citizens from every strata and corner of society, there is a large body of general political climate information sharing. This broad sector of the information visualization spectrum provides illustration of the data behind politically charged issues such as the economy, military actions, policy or law changes, international political affairs, hot button social issues, etc. The Stories Being Told: What the Visuals Do

10 The other major and perhaps more obvious or expected facet of political data spoken to through these information visualization tools, is the vast array of election related information. The Stories Being Told: What the Visuals Do

11 Infographic Visualizations of Political Data Cluster 1: Infographic Visualizations of Political Data This rich class of visualization is comprised of some truly beautiful and remarkable images. The level of artistry and deep understanding of the datasets through the lens of the story they want the image to tell is staggering. In some ways these infographics are more difficult to master, even though the level of focus and detail a user will encounter through one of the other cluster's tools is greater. The margins the idea needs to be communicated within are much tighter with infographics and as such, require a greater degree of forethought and planning.

12 Infographic Visualizations of Political Data A Visual History of the American Presidency A Visual History of the American Presidency Best-in-class example: A Visual History of the American Presidency A Visual History of the American Presidency

13 Infographic Visualizations of Political Data This visualization from TimePlots.com brings together a host of political, social, and economic factors to truly tell the story of each remarkable presidency. TimePlots.com This visually compelling piece provides an easy to follow legend and employs preattentive cues to help you better understand the trends and relationships.

14 This visual history offers an amazing array of political, social, and economic information specific to each presidency using size, color, position, shape, and embedded charting to tell each story in a remarkably full way. The deft application of high definition imaging and javascript delivery helps promote comfortable, purposeful interaction.

15 Why it Works Interactive, high-resolution web presentation that allows for quick responding zoom to allow the viewer to make best use of the perceptual coding cues Excellent use of the commonly recognized Red-Blue color differential to quickly demonstrate variables as they pertain to US Government political party affiliations Purposeful inclusion of a great number of impressive visualizations that work both individually as well as in concert to paint a detailed picture in one static frame. Excellent balance of data-to-ink ratio, especially given the multiple political/social/economic dimensions represented. It manages to be detailed, but “clean” at the same time.

16 Cluster 2: Dynamic Charting Visualizations of Political Data This class of visualization represents the most powerful and advanced tools available. The deep logic and multidimensional approach to data representation affords those who engage these visualizations to tailor the view to their own particular interest or perspective, while offering related, dynamically appearing information to further expand the users' perspective and lead them to further datastory engagement. This class of visualization represents the most powerful and advanced tools available. The deep logic and multidimensional approach to data representation affords those who engage these visualizations to tailor the view to their own particular interest or perspective, while offering related, dynamically appearing information to further expand the users' perspective and lead them to further datastory engagement.

17 Dynamic Charting Visualizations of Political Data Best-in-class example: U.S. Government Federal Information Technology Spending Dashboard U.S. Government Federal Information Technology Spending Dashboard

18 This powerful dashboard was created to provide pertinent information to members of the public and, perhaps more importantly, Congress and other key members of the current Administration insights on the effectiveness of and supporting factors behind Federal Information Technology expenditures from a variety of offices.

19 This flexible interface offers an easy to customize, instantly reactive dynamic charting and graphing information on over 7,000 Federal IT investments and detailed data for over 800 of those investments that agencies classify as "major." The easily manipulable filters employ a wide variety of perceptual and interactive features like color, motion, dynamic sliders, details on demand, etc. to allow users to tailor the datastory being told by the type of spending, the agency related to the expense, and a variety of other facets

20 Why it Works Dynamic sliders with animation to show chronological trends provide User-controlled color determinants to allow highlighted, customized views User-controlled visualization styles (variety of charting options) Ability to tie federal expenditures to specific agency initiatives (to provide readily available, accurate spending data to inform particular “conversations”

21 Cluster 3: Cartographic Visualizations of Political Data Arguably, the most common visualization employed to tell a political story (at least in the United States) is that of a map of the USA—frequently encoded with a red-blue color scheme to denote Republican or Democratic leanings or legislative representations. While this image lends itself to numerous incarnations in the Infographics sphere, some sites such as the best-in-class example shown in the next slide make much more dynamic use of this iconic image.

22 Cartographic Visualizations of Political Data Best-in-class example: Washington Post's Beyond the Results: 2010 Congressional Elections Washington Post's Beyond the Results: 2010 Congressional Elections

23 Few entities have the clout, cross-industry respect, and history of maintaining such an envied position as the Washington Post. Their “Beyond the Results” visualization offers a detailed examination of the 2010 Congressional elections through the main lens of the familiar Red-Blue map of the United States

24 This fascinating tool offers a highly-detailed, zoom- capable view not only of state results, but even down to individual state district levels. Further, an animated chronological function allows you to observe how landscape has changed over the past few elections, and the context-sensitive slider enables you to see how the particular filter you apply would be altered with variable input.

25 Why it Works Detailed, hi-resolution cartographic US representation that allows district-level zoom Balanced approach to providing detailed data within a visually engaging frame Variable filters that offer contextual guidance to allow you to engage the visualization according to your own interests, as well as those which match the larger societal dialogue on the topic Excellent use of the red-blue standard for preattentive recognition

26 Cluster 4: Other Visualizations of Political Data You've seen the charts, you've engaged the dashboards, but did you laugh? Did you come across any that made you double check that you were indeed at the right website? Odds are, no. Some visualization designers take an extra step to wrap these often dry stories in fun or unusual ways. The population of these types of visualizations is not as robust as their more serious peers, but the few I have encountered were like s breath of fresh air...making me feel as if maybe is doesn't all need to be so incredibly serious.

27 Best-in-class example: VoteEasy Other Visualizations of Political Data

28 Through deft application of javascript, photography, charting, this site from Project Vote Smart (powered by Periscopic) helps users examine the position, as supported by a linked, detailed public record, of each candidate for the 2012 U.S. Presidential election across 13 topical issues surround the elections. The use of color, motion, audio, and instant, dynamically updating views makes for a purposeful user experience, and the connection to the public record information adds a fantastic level of support for each issue.

29 File size prevented me from including much in the way of video, but the VoteEasy tool was too dynamic to represent without some visual idea of just how dynamic and powerful it is. - Click above to begin the video -

30 Why it Works Delightful balance of animation and photography with charting and detailed data-to-ink Multiple engagement strategies supported (active vs. passive) Fantastic use of flash to allow for automated engagement that is both guided (navigation) and open (user-selection-driven) Linked views of congressional election information (to come) helps bring national issues to local stage – varied focus

31 Infographic Visualizations Visual History of the American Presidency (see Best-in-class explanation above) Visual History of the American Presidency Politics and Polls - These charts illustrate voters' feelings about Bill Clinton, Bob Dole and Ross Perot during the 1996 elections, based on data from The Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll. Politics and Polls Presidential Job Approval - Charts of Presidential Job-Approval Ratings, Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, compared to charts of the Consumer Price Index, the Unemployment Rate and the Consumer Confidence Index. Presidential Job Approval Elections and Voting - Charts show how the public views the president and Congress, and how this may affect voter turnout. Elections and Voting Left Versus Right World – This colorful visualization shows a breakdown of the elements of government, society, and culture pertinent to the liberal or the conservative minded citizen of the world. Left Versus Right World Left Versus Right US – Sibling to the above, this colorful visualization shows a breakdown of the elements of government, society, and culture pertinent to the liberal or the conservative minded citizen of the United States. Left Versus Right US Newsweek’s the World’s Best Countries – This interactive infographic allows users to view the score and rank of the world’s 100 best countries through comparison of five categories: Education, Health, Quality of Life, Economic Dynamism and Political Environment. Filters can also be applied to group results by geographic location, income, and population Newsweek’s the World’s Best Countries Most Popular Political Blogs on the net – This static infographic, one of the IssueCrawler visualization series used by NGOs and other researchers to answer questions about specific networks and effective networking more generally, provides a quick visual reference source of the most popular political blogs, represented by size and color Most Popular Political Blogs on the net NewsMap: Election – This popular site covers a vast range of national and international news, employing size, motion, and color to “rank” news stories. The link above shows an example of how this affects the political sphere by searching for the term “election”. NewsMap: Election NY Times: Naming Names – This famous dynamic infographic shows the instances of the names used among the major candidates during the debates leading up to the last presidential election. Relationships are represented through the size, spacing, and color of lines and circle segments. NY Times: Naming Names NY Times Election Calculator – Another stellar interactive infographic from the visionaries at the New York Times. This slider-based infographic calculates the chances that GOP candidates could win the popular vote in the 2012 Presidential election based on the potential growth rate of the Gross Domestic Product NY Times Election Calculator VISUALIZATION APPENDIX

32 Infographic Visualizations (cont’d) Obama | One People Project – A runner up for my best-in-class for this cluster, this collection of visualizations from the MIT Senselab visualizes the mobile phone activity in Washington DC and the world during the inauguration of President Obama. Excellent use of video to show trends. Obama | One People Project Politilines – This interactive graphic by Periscopic visualizes the words spoken in the 2012 presidential debates by issue, topic, and candidate, and allows users to view historical visualizations of these over time. Politilines Piero Zagami’s UN Security Council Resolutions – taking a step back to a world view, this collection of visualizations really exemplifies the where-art-meets-science capacity of infographics. These beautiful illustrations represent the trends and decisions of the UN Executive body (over 1,700 disconnected documents) for study and political-student comprehension. Piero Zagami’s UN Security Council Resolutions Baucus Healthcare Lobbyist Complex – This pointed visualization seeks to demonstrate the conflicts of interest in Sen. Max Baucus’ staff (Baucus-headed Finance Committee has been singled out by advocates and news organizations as the toughest obstacle for the President's health care priorities). Good use of visualization to influence opinion. Baucus Healthcare Lobbyist Complex Cartographic Representation of 2008 Presidential Election & Cartographic Representation of 2008 Presidential Election 2010 Mid-term Elections – These two sites, similar in construction, offer some excellent examples of the political use of cartographs to demonstrate voter reactions and the like. Excellent source of political cartograph bet- practices Mid-term Elections MSNBC 2012 Election Voter confidence Index Chart – This embedded visualization offers an updated look as the President’s voter confidence rating over time. There are also comparisons from past seated Presidents. MSNBC 2012 Election Voter confidence Index Chart NY Times: PollWatch – This infographic employs the familiar red-blue standard US map, with the option of state or bubble based shading, and presents an interactive look at the 2004 and 2010 congressional elections—even allowing zoom down to county levels. NY Times: PollWatch

33 VISUALIZATION APPENDIX Dynamic Charting Visualizations US Government Federal Information Technology Spending Dashboard – (see best-in-class above) US Government Federal Information Technology Spending Dashboard Dirty Energy Money Tool – (see best-in-class above) Dirty Energy Money Tool ManyEyes “Political” Visualizations – While a number of the visualizations listed on this page cross cluster lines, I couldn’t help but include this collection in the appendix, given the variety of applications and perspectives on political views represented. You can get lost in here with so many options, but a number of these are award winners, so it is worth the time to browse. ManyEyes “Political” Visualizations PoliticoSphere – A runner-up to the best-in-class for this cluster, this site provides dynamic charts for data related to Political Personalities and Political Issues collected from nearly 4,000 blogs and news sites. PoliticoSphere Unfluence – With a cleverly punny title, this site mines public records and allows users to track contributions to candidates from EVERYONE. Users select the state, election type (Senate, Governor, etc.) and year, and then the tool returns the data visually through scattergraphs. Best viewed with IE. Unfluence Trendistic- This dynamic charting tool visualizes trends in Twitter posts for a given day, week, month, 3 month, or 6 month period. Related posts (often with embedded URL's for further investigation) are displayed and dynamically updated with the varied chronological user choices. The trend linked here is for the term “Romney” to give an idea of the deep results delivered. Trendistic Where Did My Tax Dollars Go? - This tool came very close to being chosen as my best in class, and has received a number of awards recognizing it's clever approach to understanding often obtuse data. Users enter thier salary and tax filing status, and are instantly brought to a table containing the federal, state, social security, and medicare deduction breakdowns. What's more is that this also employs an animated, interactive pie chart displaying the specific offices or programs that the tax dollars supported in terms of the percenatge and dollar amount the user contributed. Fascinating data and a uniquely engaging visualization. Where Did My Tax Dollars Go? NY Times: You Fix the Budget – This heavily-user-centered data visualization tool allows you to make budgetary decisions in the areas of domestic spending, healthcare, military, social security, existing taxes, and new taxes and see immediately (through dynamically updating charts) how these choices will affect the budget shortfalls for 2015 and Users are then encouraged to share the choices and resulting visuals online through embedded social media links. NY Times: You Fix the Budget

34 VISUALIZATION APPENDIX Cartographic Visualizations Washington Post's Beyond the Results: 2010 Congressional Elections – (see best-in-class above) Washington Post's Beyond the Results: 2010 Congressional Elections Boots Up Election Dashboard - This tool from the Huffington Post uses a combination of cartographic images and dynamic charts (mostly line) to tell the story of the Senate, House, and Governor's seats “up for grabs” in the 2012 elections. While this tool is broad in scope and engaging, I would have appreciated it if all of the elements of the “Election Dashboard” be treated as a dashboard and grouped on one dynamic page rather than spread across a number of pages. The effect almost made it feel like a disparate grouping of infographics rather than any dashboard. Boots Up Election Dashboard PoliticoSphere: Maps – Like it’s charting cousin above, this dynamic visual shows the key issues in the US politisphere form nearly 1,000 blogs and news sites using color, motion, dynamic zoom, and even fish- eye views. PoliticoSphere: Maps 270 to Win – Referencing the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the US Presidential election, 270towin employs a flash frame to provide the user an interactive, colorful map to track 2012 electoral votes as the user decides a state's Republican/Democrat/Undecided status. These indications instantly open related historical voting information for that state, and a fantastic set of embedded sharing tools makes it easy to bring your own views into the larger, visualized conversation. 270 to Win Wikileaks US dispatches – The international wiki-leaks scandal rocked political headlines for months. This innovative site, comprised of an interactive visual atlas and stunning “dossier” features bring the details of this story to light through beautifully balanced charts, cartographs, photography, and flash. Great use of color and motion, with instant response. Wikileaks US dispatches

35 VISUALIZATION APPENDIX Other Visualizations VoteEasy – (See best-in-class above) VoteEasy Congress Speaks - offers a dynamic exploration of the words spoken in the 110 th congress. That's right—words. Users engage the U.S. map to select the state and representative they wish to examine, and then select another state's representative to compare them to. Congress Speaks CNN’s Election Center: The Issues – This collection of issue-related articles is navigated using a visual slider that updates with a candidates standing in the election, as well as offering an overview of all candidate issues. CNN’s Election Center: The Issues Pollster – Much like the CNN Election Center, this interface combines charts, infographic visualizations, and the related news stories. Updated daily, this site helps keep you informed to whatever level of detail you are comfortable with. Pollster

36 Where do you think political data visualization is going next?


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