New Data Visualizations this Summer

We are pleased to introduce two new data visualizations.  Both are map visualizations.

First, there is the map of Boko Haram Conflicts in Nigeria.  It is a kernel density map showing the concentration of events.

Kernel density map of Boko Haram conflicts in Nigeria 2012

Second, we have a Cartogram of U.S. Population by State & Year.  This map distorts the size and shape of each state to reflect its population relative to the other states.

Cartogram of US Population by State and Year for 2010

Click on either of the maps to go to the visualizations to explore!

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Kick Off Summer Vacation With Tourism Data!

Commencement is over at Grinnell College, and here at DASIL we’re settling into our summer routine. What better way to start the summer than with a look at tourism data?

* Interested in knowing how many people visit U.S. national parks annually? The National Parks Service has 111 years of visitor data for national parks.

Total Visitors to Yellowstone Nat'l Park from 1903 to 2014

* Can you guess which country sends the most visitors to the United States annually? When you have your guess, visit the site of the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries of the U.S. International Trade Administration to find out the answer!

* Thinking about vacationing somewhere chilly this year? The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators has fifteen years of historical data about visitors to Antarctica.


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Visualizing Disease Outbreaks: A Question of Scale?

Vaccinations are a hot-button issue right now as measles outbreaks crop up throughout the United States. Measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, and polio are all deadly diseases that can be easily prevented with vaccines. Outbreaks of these diseases have been occurring worldwide for a long time, but outbreaks have been increasing in the U.S. while going down in other countries, according to the video below:

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Visualizing the Budget of the United States

Each year, the President of the United States follows the State of the Union Address with the budget proposal. But what does the US budget look like?

The New York Times created a visualization of the 2012 budget that breaks down the spending by size and color. The larger the rectangle, the more money spent. Green symbolizes an increase in that budget area, and red shows a budget cut.

A similar visualization can be found for the 2014 budget at The Washington Post. Again, size is used to represent the amount spent, but their visualization also includes revenue information. The Washington Post also includes a breakdown of mandatory vs. discretionary spending.

Here at DASIL, we have created a visualization tracking budget spending over time, including estimates until 2019, using data from The White House. You can use our tool to compare outlays for various government agencies.
For example, let’s examine spending on the Department of Education and the Department of Homeland Security:Outlays by Agency: Department of Homeland Security vs. Department of Education

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Black Civil War Soldiers: A Data Exploration in History 214

In the Fall 2014 semester, students in History 214: The American Civil War and Reconstruction class got help from DASIL to explore data about black soldiers who enlisted in the U.S. Army during the Civil War.  Where did black soldiers come from?  What kinds of economic and social factors influenced their experiences?  Students read an article by the very creative economic historians Dora L. Costa and Matthew E. Kahn, “Forging A New Identity: The Costs and Benefits of Diversity in Civil War Combat Units for Black Slaves and Freemen” (2004),” which used a variety of census, enlistment, and pension data to examine some of the effects of serving in the military on the almost 200,000 black men who enlisted in the U.S. Army after 1862.  Students had also read several articles that used Geographic Information Systems to do spatial analysis, and I was interested in doing an in-class exercise to help them think critically about military data and to introduce them to using the GIS technology.

DASIL Director Kathy Kamp, Post-Baccalaureate Fellow Sara Sanders, and DASIL student Harry Maher worked with me to design an exercise that could help students to visualize data about black soldiers for themselves and to think about the effects of geography on black enlistment.  We used a dataset on “Union Army Recruits in Black Regiments in the United States Army 1862-1865” compiled by Jacob Metzger and Robert A. Margo available through the ICPSR as a starting point.

The DASIL staff created tables that contained the Metzger and Margo data, along with 1860 census information on population and agricultural production and some tables on black enlistment from Freedom’s Soldiers: The Black Military Experience in the Civil War  (Berlin, Reidy, and Rowland, 1998).  We worked together to create a GIS exercise based on the data that could whet the students’ appetites for working with spatial data in just one class period.

The in-class exercise had two points: to get the students thinking about the nature of the datasets and to have them use ArcGIS software to create maps that showed the relationship between the proportion of black soldiers enlisted in relation to the total population by state and cotton production by county.  The Metzger and Margo dataset is based on a judgment sample, so students were able to examine the dataset alongside census records to appreciate how judgment samples do not include comprehensive data.  Nor do they represent a random, representative sampling of black soldiers.  But used alongside the census data and the tables from Freedom’s Soldiers, the data were still able to help them form some useful conclusions.

Map showing Number of Black Soldiers and Cotton Production in the United States in 1860

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