Data Visualisation: Strong Messages Educate BetterPosted: December 7, 2012
Know what this is?
Rather pretty, isn’t it – but it has a definite direction, like someone has throw something from the right and it has hit the ground and scattered.
This image is from the Bomb Sight website, and shows all of the bombs that fell on London (and surrounds) from the 7th of October, 1940, to the 6th of June, 1941. The Bomb Sight team have been working from a variety of data sources to put together a reasonably reliable picture of the recorded bombs on London over that 242 day period. If you zoom in (and it starts zoomed in), you start to see how many sites took 2, 3, 4 or more bombs (10, 11, plus) over that time.
If I were to put together a number of bombs and a number of days and say “X bombs fell in London over Y days”, you could divide X by Y and say “Gosh.” Or I can show you a picture like the one above and tell you that each of those dots represents at least one bomb, possibly as many as 10 or so, and watch your jaw drop.
Seen this way, the Blitz becomes closer to those of us who were fortunate enough not to live through that terrible period. We realise any number of things, most of which is that close proximity to a force who wishes you ill is going to result in destruction and devastation of a level that we might not be able to get our heads around, unless we see it.
Seen this way, it’s a very strong message of what actually happened. It has more power. In a world of big numbers and enormous data, it’s important to remember how we can show things so that we tell their stories in the right way. Numbers can be ignored. Pictures tell better stories, as long as we are honest and truthful in the way that we use them.