Mexico: the Land of Many Countries (or Comparisons Thereto)

On Thanksgiving, the Economist published an interactive map that looked at Mexico across three metrics: murders, murder rates, and population. Mexico is one of the more populated countries in the world, but it is also one of the most dangerous. In the middle of the previous decade, the Mexican government began to crack down on the drug cartels. But the cartels have violently resisted. Very violently.

The map is nothing new. It labels different Mexican states by comparing their statistics to those of countries across the world. For example, the state of Chihuahua in northern Mexico, one of the “fronts” of this new drug war, has a population of 3.41 million people. The total number of murders so far this year is 2,350. That is only six murders fewer than in the entire country of the Ukraine. Did I mention the population of the Ukraine is over 45 million. More than ten times the size of Chihuahua. And the comparisons go on, though as the map clearly points out the distribution is not uniform.

Murder rates in Mexico
Murder rates in Mexico

In terms of interactivity, a nice little feature is the filtering of the map by the legend at the bottom. Hover over one of the bars and only those areas appear coloured in the map.

I Just Want to Retire

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got goals in life. Namely to retire. So thankfully the Economist put together this infographic on retirement age across the OECD (a cool club of rich countries), specifically to look at how retirement ages have changed between 1970 and 2010 alongside life expectancy.

retirement
retirement

363 Days

We are now just under 365 days away from Election Day 2012. Without a doubt, I shall have many politically-themed graphics coming. People just have to start making them. But for now, the Economist kicked it off Monday—when it was 365 days—with a motion graphic piece that outlines some of the polling numbers and challenges to the Republicans vying for power and President Obama determined to keep it.

365 days until Election Day 2012
365 days until Election Day 2012

Certain types of the chart are very much not helpful in determining the actual numerical comparisons. But, with the voiceover keeping our attention and explaining what is going on with the charts, it is as always interesting to experience a story told in charts and graphs for nearly three minutes. And about a story with real significance.

What’s In a Tweet?

Tweeting in 140 characters would seem to give one little information, aside from interesting ways of shortening and truncating the English language. However, if you dig just a little deeper than the blurb of text, one can find a whole lot more information that companies—surprise—find valuable.

This graphic, originally by Raffi Krikorian at Twitter, is via the Economist as part of the Daily Chart blog. Certainly the topic is interesting and the diagram useful, but it could probably a bit more structure and clarity in terms of arranging the information. But, if one takes the time to read through it, the breakdown of a single Tweet is quite fascinating.

Breaking Down a Tweet
Breaking Down a Tweet

Everybody Wants to Rule the (Top of the) World

To the victors go the spoils of war. Often unheralded of course is the spoil of drawing the new map. But, in and among the Himalayas, the territory of Jammu and Kashmir is yet to be won decisively by any side. Look at 1947, 1965, and 1999, we still have the territory contested and different parts controlled by different countries.

The current boundaries in Kashmir
The current boundaries in Kashmir

The Economist, noting the potential flashpoint, created an interactive map to highlight the region and the situation, wherein one can view the different claims and how they overlap. Nothing particularly fancy, but it need not be to clearly communicate the fact that Jammu and Kashmir is mess of the most sovereign order.

However, the interesting bit of the story is how in India the government, which claims the entirety of the territory, censored the print-edition of the Economist wherein the conflicting claims and current lines-of-control were drawn with a sticker because the map was incorrect, to use the BBC’s word, as it showed the region divided between India, Pakistan, and China.

Note here the Pakistani claim versus the Indian claim—I shall leave you, the reader, to investigate the differences between the Chinese claim.

The Pakistani claim
The Pakistani claim
The Indian claim
The Indian claim

Turkey Votes…Against Orange

Turkish Vote Results
Turkish Vote Results

I like maps, I really do. And I also like politics. And that means I love election maps. Or just voting maps. This here comes from a Turkish news outlet, Today’s Zaman, via the Economist’s article on the election. A (very) brief background for those unfamiliar with the matter at hand: Turkey wants to be admitted into the European Union (EU), but the EU requires reforms made to the Turkish constitution to bring Turkey up to EU standards in terms of law, liberalism, &c. All well and good, except that Turkey has a unique history of being a staunchly secular country where Islam is the dominant religion. Relaxing the rules against Turkey’s strict brand of secularism has stoked resentment and controversy from those on the staunchly secular side. And the constitutional changes that upset this group of people are being enacted by a political party whose history is that of a party based in Islam. It gets a bit tricky…

But about the graphic…

First, I think a good if not expected place to start is with the three-dimensional pie chart and map. These two visual elements add little if not subtract from the overall graphic. By putting the ‘No’ vote in the background it is made to appear smaller than the ‘Yes’ vote and can be seen as marginalising that portion of the vote. Furthermore, note the change in the colour of the type for each section of the chart. While the orange and white is certainly a high contrast, the black versus white is even higher.

As to the map, I am not an expert in Turkish geography, but this appears to simply be adding a weird three-dimensional effect to the edges of an otherwise flat map. At least I should hope the map is otherwise flat and not distorting the geography. One can always make the argument that a map is not needed to show a single datapoint, in this case the ‘victor’ in the vote. However, from the perspective of an American not familiar with Turkish provinces (assuming they are indeed called provinces), this map is far more meaningful than would a statistically  more valuable chart highlighting the discrepancy in the vote. After all the little miniature pies in each province are largely useless except in the most obvious of differences. To actually show and detail the degree of victory a bar chart for all provinces would be more useful.

Or perhaps a compromise that would show each province in a colour that reflects the overall victor, yes or no, and the degree to which that camp beat the other through use of a gradient. Would that be ideal for showing the details of the numbers? No, not at all, but it would highlight that while the ‘No’ vote was concentrated along the western and northern provinces—do they share a political similarity because of their bordering on the Aegean or some other reason?—but that the strongest ‘No’ vote was in the very northwest—geographically the most European part—of Turkey, excepting some exceptional province in the centre of the country. None of this, of course, deals with the density of the population in each province, for none of that is known to me as a non-Turkish observer.

The colours, white and orange, work when considered against the blueish background. Of course, why the bluish background? It might be a branding element or some other such visual styling well-established with the news outlet with which I am unfamiliar. But if not, it does not really add anything other than that glossy feel. The white as a choice for the ‘Yes’ vote is interesting, because it draws more attention to the presence of the ‘No’ vote in the north and west whereas the positioning of the wedges of the pie in the pie chart would hint that the important element to draw forward is that of the ‘Yes’ vote. In terms of the message or the thesis of the graphic, I am unsure. However, using white to allow the orange to come forward is itself a nice visual touch to bring out one or the other camp. Now if only I could figure out which the graphic was going for…

All in all, it is an interesting piece that puts the news story in more context than I might typically read in a straight, text-only article. It has some flaws, but that might be owing to my perspective as an outsider looking in.

The Challenge from FlowingData

The 25 February posting from FlowingData issues a challenge to improve a chart from the Economist. I find that the Economist usually does pretty solid work and so improving their output is by no means easy. Regardless, I figured I would further delay starting my Friday work by spending 15–20 minutes on an attempt to improve the Economist’s work.

Original from the Economist vs. My Attempt

challenge-original

challenge-redux

I did not find a whole lot of flaws in their chart. Most unnecessary bits have been eliminated and we have a clean line chart. The semi-advantage allowed us all is that we do not have to follow the branding guidelines of the Economist. Initially, I attempted to do a straight grey-scale chart but found the overlapping lines could be a bit confusing. And so I added a hint of blue and then tinted lines when they overlapped to aid the reader in following each line.

I also eliminated the shaded Forecast area and replaced it with switching the solid lines of the historic data to a dashed line for forecast data. The exact shape of the lines may not be exact because I traced over the lines with the pen tool in Illustrator—but for these purposes that seemed reasonable to me.

The other ‘big’ change was more typographic in nature. I decided to highlight the countries and drop back the labels by making the latter grey.