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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Using Cartograms as a Visualization Tool: An Interactive Tool for Exploring Fertility Rates

Cartogram of the world based on population size.

Cartogram of the world based on population size.

Cartograms are spatial depictions that rely on quantitative attributes other than area to size their units. The most common cartograms show the world, and distort it by population or by wealth, but any geographic entity can be transformed into a cartogram. Because they force us to view the map in unfamiliar ways, cartograms provide dramatic visual portrayals of geographic, political, and socio-economic relationships. A look at a cartogram of the world based on population (above) quickly shows the potentially dominant places of India and China in Asia with respect to Russia and the significance of Korea and Japan as well.

The world sized by Gross National Product (GDP).

The world sized by Gross National Product (GDP).

Quite a different picture is presented by the world sized by Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Here the U.S. and Europe dominate.  China is still large,Russia is still small, and the importance of Korea and Japan is still evident.

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Geovisualizing the Ebola Crisis

Media coverage of the Ebola virus outbreak has thus far represented a geospatial and cartographic moment.  Mapping of the outbreak and geovisualization of its different facets is doing much to frame public understanding of the crisis as well as the policies that are attempting to address it.

Population flow measured by mobile phones from Worldpop.org.uk/Flowminder

One the one hand, the widespread use of geovisualizations to report on the Ebola epidemic reflects the high density of information that maps provide.  This has only been increased by the swift integration of traditional cartography with animated graphics and other web-based media to create ever more visually appealing infographics that have a geographic twist.

Geovisualizations demonstrate the importance of place and scale—two fundamental aspects of geography—to the Ebola epidemic.  Maps of the worldwide locations of where infected patients are staying, the locations of medical centers equipped to handle Ebola are located, not to mention the geographic concentrations of new cases give readers a place-based sense of either unease or hope.  Maps of Ebola-related travel restrictions tell us how national governments are responding to the ongoing risk of spread.

But West Africa remains the epicenter of this Ebola outbreak and the region is already suffering a tremendous human and economic toll from the virus.  Using geospatial approaches to understand patterns of human mobility will is playing a central role in efforts to prevent the outbreak from reaching even greater proportions.  One of the best examples of this is work done by researchers associated with the Flowminder Foundation which reveals at an unprecedented level of detail the movements of people in and around the parts of West Africa with the highest concentrations of Ebola cases.  What made this work possible was the use of cell phone records, which are proprietary to the providing telecom companies and sensitive information for the phone users themselves.  Given the growing need for this type of spatial epidemiology to address fast breaking and complex emergencies like the Ebola outbreak, we can expect that norms around data availability and use to change quickly and in unexpected ways.


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