Data Journalism Critique: Wk 8

http://www.unicef.org/sowc2012/urbanmap/

 

What we are looking at here is a simple interactive map with a sliding scale to show how the world’s urban population has changed from 1950 to present day, with an additional feature of projecting the population all the way up to 2050.

What I liked best about this visualization was that it chose to use circles to represent countries rather than the shapes of the countries. This cleans up a lot of clutter and makes it easier to see just how much the population is increasing as we slide the timescale from left to right. If we don’t want to do it manually, we can press the play button and see a gradual increase as the years go by.

When you mouse over one of the country circles, it gives you only two figures which are urban population and percentage of population that is urban. If you click on the circle, you can zoom in and mouse over the stats for smaller surrounding countries that may not be seen in the zoomed out version.

While the power of this visualization comes from it’s simplicity, I couldn’t help but think it was slightly incomplete.  Getting the number for the urban population of each country is an important statistic, but we need to make it relevant. How exactly does an increase in urban population affect a country? Possibly a decrease in agricultural output or an increase in service related jobs ? maybe an increase in education? I would have liked to see some more stats on the mouse-over that would give some additional information about how the increase in urban population affects the country as a whole.

I also wish the map had an option the switch between the bubbles representing percentage of urban population rather than the entire number for urban population. I think percentage is a more accurate indicator, for e.g. China is leading with 630 million urban dwellers but their percentage is only 47 percent. The U.S. on the other hand has a much smaller population but an urban population of 82 percent. If we were to compare the two nations, percentage would be a more accurate standard and the map should reflect that.

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