Designing data…

"… with a view to informing decisions and taking action." Maps are perhaps the oldest and best forms of visualising data.

Met up with Danny Dorling last night, Professor Danny Dorling to you, master of maps which actually kind of underplays the incredibly important role he has in defining social policy, especially in the UK.  Anyway, aside from some mutually supportive moan on why you just can’t win trying to be a new dad and all this modern man business is a cynical attempt by feminists to allow us to believe we’re empowering ourselves when [tailed off into drunken half-baked rubbish…] we discussed World Mapper, one of the most fantastic map resources on the web and a product of Danny and his team which they’re due to complete very soon.

Map of those living on less than $1 a day

And each of the maps has fantastic  notation:

The first Millennium Development Goal is to halve, between 1990 and
2015, the proportion of people who live on the equivalent of US$1 a
day, or less. In 2002, an estimated 17% of the world population lived
on this amount. They lived on less than or equal to what, to be
precise, US$1.08 would have bought in the United States in 1993.

over twenty territories more than a third of the population lives on
less than US$1 a day. All but two of these territories are in Africa.

The largest population living on US$1 a day is in Southern Asia, most of whom live in India.

It’s a fairly exhaustive attempt to map the key data that defines ‘us’ in the world and in the process get you to think!  [Maps are such a great stimulus for visually representing data.  It’s probably no surprise that so many information architects / designers  are map freaks]. 

The main issue for World Mapper and the people behind it, is how to make better use of a resource which is probably, according to Danny, the last of it’s kind because, going forward there will be such an abundance and a variety of data that mapping it will be so much more difficult.

So how to make better use of it?  If you have an idea either Danny or myself would love to know.  There’s no API, though to be honest it’s difficult to know what this could allow anyway, the real value is in the imagery but there is a partial RSS feed.  The data itself is available to use in xls format [and someone could do a job in making this machine readable…] as are the images, released on an attribution, non-commercial share-alike license though the website is far more ambiguous about this [it isn’t creative commons because that could inhibit some major media exercise with partners etc].  Thoughts on how this could be more useful…

Worldmapper: The world as you’ve never seen it before

1 Comment
  1. In its present state not sure how you could make this more useful. However if the data sets span time periods, then things are more interesting. A feed or api could then open up the map image urls for particular points in time, and using the api you could create animations, slideshows, interfaces into the maps over time?

    Another thought, can they get this data out in a kmz/kml file for use on Google Maps / Earth? That would see a huge potential audience suddenly sit up and want to make use of the data…

    Anyway, back to the mundane stuff :o)

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