What To Do If You Capture a Terrorist

Have you ever wondered what you would do if you caught a US citizen who was a terrorist? No? Well, the folks at the Brookings Institution did and using what is publicly known and inferring from events that have happened they have created a disposition matrix about the decisions made in such scenarios. In short, it is an interactive flowchart with examples and explanations of the various steps.

Disposition Matrix
Disposition Matrix

Credit for the piece goes to Benjamin Wittes and Daniel Byman.

Hunting for Elephants

I’m back after two weeks holiday. See, I didn’t forget you. I even brought you presents. Of a sort. From National Geographic come two maps from an article about the poaching of elephants—if I recall correctly.

The first map is the better of the two. It shows the impact of poaching by overlaying the ranges of the elephants in two different years. Not surprisingly, the range has decreased. The map also points out monitored reserves and then aggregates data from those sites into regions, whose illegal death totals are displayed as little filled-in elephant icons. I don’t love the icons, but they are compact, flat, and stack nicely. Almost squarish. So they can work for me.

Elephant Poaching
Elephant Poaching

This second map is less successful. It dedicates a lot of real estate to a large map that is really only used to highlight countries that are quite large. Without any kind of supplemental data as the first map had, e.g. the elephant ranges, I would have likely made the map smaller. The tusk chart below the map…yeah.

Ivory is used to determine number of elephants killed
Ivory is used to determine number of elephants killed

Both taken together, I am left with the impression that the full-page graphics were the work of two different hands. The first map has the level of detail of someone who is conversant in and works regularly on infographics. The second page feels a bit weaker, as if from someone not quite so familiar with infographics and how to make the best of them.

Credit for the pieces go to NGM staff.

Congressional Redistricting

The New York Times looks at who controlled the redistricting of US congressional seats because of the 2010 census. It then showed an example in North Carolina where Republican control led to the state being less competitive in the past for Democrats. In 2010, Democrats held 7/13 seats in North Carolina. But after the redistricting, in 2012 the Democrats held only 4/13. And all of this is done in a small, compact space. This is a very effective graphic.

Redistricting
Redistricting

Credit for the piece goes to Tom Giratikanon.

Healthy Living

Yesterday the Washington Post published an article and an accompanying interactive infographic on life expectancy. But not just how long one can expect to live, but also how long one can expect to live in good health. What makes the piece particularly nice and effective are the annotations that explain some of the data points, in particular the outlier of Haitian males.

Life expectancies
Life expectancies

Credit for the piece goes to Bonnie Berkowitz, Emily Chow, and Todd Lindeman.

England and Wales Census Results

Earlier this week, the Office of National Statistics in the United Kingdom released census results for England and Wales. (Northern Ireland and Scotland are reported separately.) England has more people than expected, most likely because of undercounting of immigrants, and Wales is now some three million and counting. There are fewer Christians than expected—and fewer Jedi than I expected—as the ranks of the non-religious grow. But from of course all of this comes a bevy of visualisations. These are but a few, but if anybody finds others worth nothing, please feel free to send them my way.

Straight from the source is a set of interactive mapping applications from ONS that compare 2001 data to 2011 data. As best it can, census districts are compared on a one-to-one basis, but with boundary changes that isn’t always possible. Clicking on district provides one with details about the responses for that area.

% Christian across England and Wales
% Christian across England and Wales
% Christian in North Devon
% Christian in North Devon

Perhaps the one thing missing from these—and it may well owe to the aforementioned boundary changes—is a map of changes to see which areas have been most impacted. Or a map of the results compared to the average to see where the average can be found and where the positive and negative extremes can be found.

An infographic from the Guardian looks at the overall dataset with quite a few maps and then circle-y things. While the large map is the white population in 2011, the remaining maps are before and after comparisons. Again, an interesting look would have been perhaps deviations from the average or of the actual change per district.

UK Census results visualised
UK Census results visualised

I appreciate the impact of the main story, the increasing diversity of England and, to a lesser extent, Wales. London in particular is now minority white. However, I am less keen on the circle-y things and that data could probably have been presented in a clearer, more direct fashion. I am not a fan of red, yellow, and green traffic light colours, but I also recognise that the Guardian is working within their brand on this.

Unfortunately this interactive map of Northern Ireland’s national identity does not quite work for me. I appreciate the toggle between the different response options, however, I find the responses themselves hard to compare. The colours remain the same, but the scales for the results change. For those identifying as Northern Irish, the top value is clearly less than those identifying as either British or Irish. But I would have liked to have seen the scales for British and Irish to closer match. I also find the black background distracting and overwhelming the colours. I wonder how the result would have worked if treated with the above aesthetic.

British identity in Northern Ireland
British identity in Northern Ireland

The BBC took a stab too with a section devoted to the results. Unlike the ONS visualisation above, however, the side-by-side comparison is forced to be smaller with the included text. And when one zooms into a particular district, the map degrades into crude polygons—a particular pet peeve of mine—that would be unrecognisable to someone familiar with the intimate geographic details of their home region. (Yes, simple shapes make the files smaller for overview maps, but when seen up-close, they lose their value by making ugly maps.) Also, the colours and bins in this particular view are not as informative as in the view above.

Christianity in England and Wales
Christianity in England and Wales
Christianity in North Devon
Christianity in North Devon

The BBC, however, did create a small graphic for an article that showed population changes in the districts, alas the colours did not work as well as one would hope.

Population Change
Population Change

That’s a lot for people to digest, but, overall I think the clearest visualisations go to the ONS. They lack the commentary that can be brought by journalism organisations, e.g. the BBC, but one needs a clear and powerful visualisation before one can start writing an analysis.

Credit for the ONS results goes to the ONS Data Visualisation Centre, for the Guardian infographic credit goes to Paul Scruton and Mark McCormick, for the Northern Ireland piece credit goes to John Burn-Murdoch, and credit for the BBC goes to the BBC.

Canadian Debt

Canada, along with Australia, was one of the few Western, industrialised economies to weather the global recession of 2008 fairly well. However in recent years, despite the economic boom in the energy-rich western provinces, many of Canada’s provinces have been accumulating substantial—though not yet crippling—levels of debt. Toronto’s National Post explores the federal and provincial situation using small (or perhaps medium-sized) multiples.

Canada's debt
Canada's debt

Credit for the piece goes to Richard Johnson.

Fighter Jets

A large-scale infographic with lots of drawings of fighter jets. That’s pretty much what this is. And that’s cool enough for me. The background is that the US fighter programme for the F-35 is increasingly ridiculously expensive and beyond budget. Some nations, like Canada, are starting to have second thoughts. This post outlines potential options and adversaries.

Not all of these aircraft are really options. For example, the US has banned the export of the F-22 and it is highly unlikely that Canada would purchase the Raptor. Will the Russians ever build the PAK FA? They’ve been trying to build them for years and the aircraft has yet to go into production. Regardless of the likelihood of facing the adversaries or procuring the options, they’re still pretty cool illustrations and side-by-side comparisons.

Fighter jet options and adversaries for Canada
Fighter jet options and adversaries for Canada

Credit for the piece goes to Jonathon Rivait, Mike Faille, and Matt Gurney.