Data Visualization Critique: Wk 12


We’re looking at yet another map of America visualization with regards to the economy. There definitely seems to be a high demand for facts and figures about unemployment, government spending etc, especially since it’s an election year.

On the surface, this map contains a lot of information about the different kinds of social programs Americans receive. But there’s really only one stat we’re interested in looking at which is the figure for unemployment benefits. We can naturally infer that the states with the darkest regions, or the most unemployment benefit claims are the ones that have been hit hardest by the economy. What’s cool about this map is that you can toggle between the different decades to see if it’s always the same areas that get affected when the economy goes south and it looks like that’s the case.

I would have done away with the “play” button that shows up when the page loads. It isn’t adding anything we can’t already do with the left/right buttons and besides, the transitions occur too fast for us to observe any impact or trend.

The popup graphs that appear when you mouseover a county are great because they are uniform and it is easy to see the story of each county through the dips and spikes. If you gradually mouseover entire areas, it’s pretty easy to see which counties and states were drastically affected and which ones remained relatively stable.

The color scheme also works, with the dark red signifying increased government spending, the gradation of the colors are smooth yet distinct enough for us to see a clear difference. The numbers accompanying the scale are also helpful and the chart does one thing lacking in so many US maps which is to make all the information uniform and comparable as you go from state to state.

I might have chosen to not represent any of the other government social programs since unemployment is such a crucial piece of the pie but I can see the value in having them there. The map allows for a great degree of personalization as you can zoom into the county you live in to get the exact figures and history of the area.

Adding a link to the NYtimes story about how government spending has increased was also a nice touch, something I would definitely click on to give this information some context. A great example of the symbiotic relationship between data and story.


One thought on “Data Visualization Critique: Wk 12

  1. susanemcg says:

    This is indeed a great graphic, though I would also critique the “play” button – more because its placement suggests it relates to the previous/next buttons below, rather than the left/right decade arrows. Personally, I completely missed the latter when I first saw this piece last week.

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