information design

How to write code for images

This page is meant to provide the basics of how to code images for the web.  This link is a starting point for learning to code images. 

We Feel Fine

We Feel Fine

Image Credit: We Feel Fine

H/T: Stephanie Rosen

I spent an inordinate amount of time today on Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar’s thought-provoking website, We Feel Fine.  This website scans, or in their words “harvests,” weblogs for statements with the phrase “I feel.”  Each of these statements is then represented as a colorful “particle” and organized into a variety of visual and statistical data.  The website generates fascinating examples of how people communicate about feelings and gives a powerful impression of both the diversity and similarity among affective statements online.  It also raises important questions about privacy.  The statements and images on We Feel Fine are from blogs, MySpace and Flickr.  Harvested statements whose writers’ also posted images are represented as a “Montage” with the text embedded in the image.  Site users can then save and send these postcard-like pieces.  For both its creative design and surveillance techniques, We Feel Fine provokes interesting questions regarding affect, privacy and online writing.


Apocalypse Infographed

Just spotted a link to this at Andrew Sullivan's blog (h/t): check out the wonderful compilation of explanations of the current financial crisis by graphic designers at FlowingData. infograph explaining the financial crisisImage credit: cypher13 via

FlowingData is a site that "explores how designers, statisticians, and computer scientists are using data to understand ourselves better - mainly through data visualization. Money spent, reps at the gym, time you waste, and personal information you enter online are all forms of data. How can we understand these data flows? Data visualization lets non-experts make sense of it all." To my knowledge, the site hasn't been linked on viz. before--but I think it's something our readers would really like (but then, they probably already know about it).

The economy and design

I saw these two responses to the our recent economic woes on BoingBoing.

The first, posted by guest-blogger Clay Shirky, is a graph showing the distribution of the returns of the S&P 500 in 10-percentage-point increments since 1825. The placement of 2008 adds a chilling perspective to our current crisis.

The second is a humorous response to the proposed auto industry bailout in the form of a car advertisement:

Origins of the bomb

A Chain Reaction of Proliferation infographic tracing the proliferation of the atomic bomb

A recent New York Times article on the invention and dissemination of atomic weapons included the infographic above on the travels of the atomic bomb. The article references some new works on the history of the bomb, noting that it was only invented once:

All paths stem from the United States, directly or indirectly. One began with Russian spies that deeply penetrated the Manhattan Project. Stalin was so enamored of the intelligence haul, Mr. Reed and Mr. Stillman note, that his first atom bomb was an exact replica of the weapon the United States had dropped on Nagasaki.

Moscow freely shared its atomic thefts with Mao Zedong, China’s leader. The book [Robert S. Norris’s Racing for the Bomb] says that Klaus Fuchs, a Soviet spy in the Manhattan Project who was eventually caught and, in 1959, released from jail, did likewise. Upon gaining his freedom, the authors say, Fuchs gave the mastermind of Mao’s weapons program a detailed tutorial on the Nagasaki bomb. A half-decade later, China surprised the world with its first blast.

FISA flowchart and alternatives to proposal arguments

So many writing and rhetoric assignments require students to write proposal arguments responding to issues in their schools or communities. While instructors often imagine that these arguments will end up being published somewhere where they will actually have an impact on the community in question, in my experience this rarely happens. For whatever reason, students rarely take the time to polish and submit their work; to get them to take this step, instructors often have to make submission a course requirement, which is an iffy pedagogical move.

I said all that to say this: I wonder if a project like this one outlining the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in a flowchart might be a better means of achieving the goal of civic engagement that the proposal argument is supposed to fulfill. Perhaps the problem with proposal arguments in that they often feel artificial. Students have to dream up a project which they may or may not care about, and then translate that project for publication, a time-consuming task that requires a lot of interest on the part of the author. Consider this alternative: taking a difficult idea or concept and explaining it more clearly in another medium. The project’s usefulness—both on its own and as a skill that will be helpful to students outside the classroom—explains itself, and it can be published immediately online. I’m currently preparing for my fall Computers and Writing course, and I’m seriously considering having my students do something like this for a major assignment.

link Ketchup and Caviar (via Boing Boing)

Illustrating magnetic fields

Magnetic Movie from Semiconductor on Vimeo.

I’m not sure how this video was made, but it is really amazing to look at.

As rhetoric instructors spend more and more time teaching new media like video, I think this genre—the instructional video—will become an important skill for students in their own fields.

Here’s a description of the video:

The secret lives of invisible magnetic fields are revealed as chaotic ever-changing geometries. All action takes place around NASA's Space Sciences Laboratories, UC Berkeley, to recordings of space scientists describing their discoveries. Actual VLF audio recordings control the evolution of the fields as they delve into our inaudible surroundings, revealing recurrent ‘whistlers' produced by fleeting electrons. Are we observing a series of scientific experiments, the universe in flux, or a documentary of a fictional world?

via Make

Google, Twitter create Super Tuesday mashup

Google and Twitter have gotten together to create a mashup of Super Tuesday related tweets.

screenshot of Google Twitter Super Tuesday mashup

via TechCrunch

Track oil donations to presidential candidates

information graphic oil industry contributions to U.S. presidential candidates has posted a dynamic information graphic showing contributions from the oil industry to U.S. presidential candidates.

In the “relationship view,” the more money a politician has accepted from the oil industry, the bigger their picture is on the map. The more money they have accepted from an individual company, the thicker the line will be that connects them. Elected officials & companies are positioned by their relationships, those that are close together tend to have similar patterns of giving and receiving. In the “table view,” politicians are ranked by their total dollar amount received, together with the companies that donated them.

via Information Aesthetics

Yahoo! political dashboard

Yahoo political dashboard

Yahoo! has created a political dashboard that collects primary and poll information in a real-time, interactive interface (click on the image for a larger view). I’ve been playing around with this tool since the beginning of the year, and I’ve found the way it mixes different kinds of information to be helpful in following the campaigns.

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