All posts tagged “Visualization

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Truth and Beauty in Georeferenced Social Media

As georeferenced data from social media, be it in the form of Tweets, Foursquare Check-Ins, Instragram photos, Flickr pictures, etc., are increasingly available, so do (geospatial) analyses and visualizations done with them become more and more popular. Often, such studies and applications claim to be able to infer social, cultural, and even political insights from these data, spatially fine-grained and referenced down to the level of countries and cities.
I haven’t seen a single one which actually succeeded in plausibly explaining the how to me.

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SoMePolis Twittermonitor

October 2013

Direct link.

Together with my friends from the SoMePolis project, I drafted, designed and implemented an interactive application which allows to monitor and analyze the Twitter accounts of Swiss parliament members. This blog post sums up pretty well what is possible with the app — unfortunately it’s written in German.

In short, the app allows the user to rank parliament members based on their activity and interactivity on Twitter — two concepts which were operationalized with key figures such as the number of Tweets within a timespan and the number of interactions with other users. The goal was to provide a simple yet transparent and not too complex measure of how politicians perform on Twitter, i.e., exactly the opposite of what other services such as Klout provide — nontransparent, proprietary ranking algorithms.

The user interface supports common interactions such as sorting, filtering and searching, and all these actions automatically trigger a dynamic update of the visible data set.

The user interface allows for sorting, filtering and searching.

The user interface allows for sorting, filtering and searching.

One thing that I am quite proud of is the responsiveness of the app. This was not implemented with the help of a common framework such as Bootstrap.js and thus does not rely on CSS media queries (but probably could have). In fact, the window size is extracted and, based on this information, the corresponding data items are arranged dynamically. Naturally, each resize of the window triggers a re-arrangement if needed (try it out by resizing your browser window).

The arrangement of the data items is dynamically changed based on the window size and thus based on the type of device.

The arrangement of the data items is dynamically changed based on the window size and thus based on the type of device.

I again implemented this visualization with D3. In this case, it was particularly helpful for data filtering and sorting, but also for the animations that happen on page change and window resize.



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Global Oil Production & Consumption Since 1965

August 2013

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Instead of writing yet another paper, I handed in this visualization for the LERU Bright 2013 Student Conference which will be held in August in Freiburg, Germany. This year’s conference topic is “Energy Transition in the 21st Century” and I am part of the “Dependencies” working group.

This “Atlas der Globalisierung”-inspired visualization, based on very recent data by BP, allows the reader to quickly grasp the temporal and spatial differences in oil consumption and production. On one hand, during certain periods of history, some nations consumed almost as much oil as the rest of the world together. On the other hand, the data of the last ten years show a growing divergence between consumption and production. After all, I hope this work makes clear that nations are heavily interdependent when it comes to oil – the main driver of our global economy.


A linked view allows to interactively explore the data on oil consumption and production throughout the years.

Crafted with D3.js.

The visualization was later adapted by the Swiss daily newspaper “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” :

NZZ adaption

Adaption of the visualization by the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”

In my opinion, the team around Sylke Gruhnwald did a very good job in taking the essence out of my visualization and also in leveraging it in terms of usability. The according time series are not shown on mouseover, but triggered by mouse clicks and touch events, which makes it easier for mobile device users to study a country’s oil consumption as well as production. I also prefer the adaptive “stacking” of all chart lines in the background, which does not necessarily give more information but is still very aesthetic. What is missing, in my opinion, is the bar chart that directly compares the huge differences in consumption and production between different countries. The small data tables at the lower right corner give an impression of this, but do not visually convey it.

If you are interested in coming projects, follow me on Twitter.

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Swiss Votes Explorer

Spring 2013

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I implemented this interactive visualization for a university course about geovisualization. It allows the user to visually compare two variables (either the outcome of a vote or a socio-demographic factor, per district). Two maps are used to show the geographical distribution of the variables, and quartiles are computed to distribute the values into four classes.

A scatterplot allows the user to contrast the two chosen variables and explore possible associations. Both views (map and scatterplot) are linked, so the user always knows which district he or she is dealing with.


The scatterplot, linked with the map, allows exploratory analysis of the data.

On top of that, the user has the possibility to draw a rectangle around the points in the scatterplot and thus select a set of districts (“brushing”). After this, the corresponding districts are highlighted in the map. This helps, for instance, to quickly identify regions where certain variables have high or low values, etc.

In order to better compare differences between subsequent variables, a linear, visual transition of half a second is used. This helps to mitigate the problem ofchange blindness.

Crafted with D3.js, color palettes by Cynthia Brewer.