Election day: a feast of interactivity

From a European perspective the midterm elections held today in the United States are a feast of democracy. Voters elect new members for the House of Representatives and the Senate and all kinds of local representatives. Furthermore they are able to give their opinion on several ballot measures, initiatives, and propositions.

Election day is also a feast of interactivity. As always The New York Times is leading, with interactive election maps for the House and Senate, a visualization of political tweets and an overview of states where Tea Party candidates are running.

But of course others show their best too. Good visualizes how the political climate has changed over time while Forbes concentrates on billionaires’ favorite politicians. Pressure groups also have discovered the power of infographics. Oil Change International reveals how energy companies attempt to suspend the California Global Warming Act by funding Proposition 23. A nice example of the power of zoom, except for the counterintuitive slider. Less interactive but much funnier is this explanimation that promotes the legalization and taxing of cannabis in that same state:

Revealing answers instead of data

Last week I wrote about interactive modalities (clicking, hovering, dragging, etc.) and their functions. Probably the most important function of interactivity in infographics is hiding or revealing information, especially in case of multidimensional data.

But hiding information can also detach data from meaning as Kaiser Fung clearly demonstrates in Detached in time and space, a blogpost about a donut chart by Reuters on corporate sentiment in Asia. Fung also has some noteworthy suggestions to improve the graphic:

A better way to organize the chart is to start with the types of questions that the reader is likely to want to answer. Clicking on each question (say, compare ratings across industries within a country) would reveal one of the above collections of charts.

In short: try to reveal answers instead of data.

Networking the News

Last week I wrote about the Notable Names Database, an interactive network diagram that allows you to explore the connection between all kind of famous people. Of course you can do the same with stories in the news. Slade Magazine did exactly that. News Dots visualizes the connections between recent topics in the news as a giant social network. Subjects are represented by circles that are connected if they appear together in at least two stories. The size of the dot is proportional to the total number of times the subject is mentioned. Clicking a circle reveals the stories that mention them. Be sure to also check some other experiments in the Slade Labs of multimedia journalism (via).