Carl Tashian

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Jun 19 02004 4.15p

I found this visualization of google news today. It’s great that you can go back in time, apply dynamic filters (by country, by topic), see many dimensions in the data (aging, relative coverage, actual headlines, news category), and it’s in real-time.

This reminds me of Map Of The Market, which is a real-time (well, 15-minute delated, of course) visualization of US stock market activity. Rectangle size shows market cap. and colors show % changes in stock price:

Market Map Color Key

(See also: Mappa.Mundi Magazine’s good article on The Map of the Market)

Both the News Map and Map of the Market are examples of Treemaps, a recently-concieved (as in 1990) data visualization techinque, originally designed for a map of files and directories on a hard disk (the question: what files are taking up the most space? or: how fragmented is my hard disk? both questions are becoming moot). I think Treemaps will become much nicer as computer display resolutions increase, but they’ve already proven useful in stories about data.

There’s also the less dense (but cooler looking) circular treemap, with an iconized proof-of-concept showing directory usages in a file browser…

Of course, I see no reason to avoid Treemaps of more “subjective” data:


Does this not tell a story just as well? Of course, there are fewer dimensions to the data: the photograph shows an event, the size shows how much I like the photograph (which guides the story), the location gives a chronology to the story, and a rollover text box on each photo (which I didn’t do) might show the location, date, time. Clicking on the photo could reveal a larger version.

It’s an interesting editorial device that takes the democracy of size out of the typical web photo gallery. A future enhancement to any digital photo management software would make low-rated photos smaller and high-rated photos larger (the trouble, of course, is how do this while keeping them packed tightly enough on the screen). Meanwhile, I’m going to make all of my future photo galleries like this collage, with clickable images of course. I like the idea of selecting AND emphasizing what I present. I think it’s an important editorial device that can only strengthen the story. That is, it’s another way I can screw with your mind and how it thinks my vacation was.


Did I say Treemaps were invented in 1990? Maybe they were really invented in the data visualization of 19th-century French Salon paintings, which were arranged on the wall at the famous annual exhibition just as my photos are arranged above. Maybe it all goes back to Art in the end, after all..?


Jun 20 02004 4.58a
Andrew Reitz #

I think it would be interesting if these visualizations of your photos were dynamic as opposed to static. For example, the number of hits (or more appropriately clicks) that a photo gets over time could increase its size.

If you did that though, it would take the editorial power over the rating away from you, and give it to your audience. I’m not sure how that interacts with the notion of art — which is supposed to be the creation of one, shared with the many… Right?


Jun 24 02004 2.25p
carl #

Andy, that’s a great idea. The difficulty is arranging them into a nice looking grid once you’ve gotten the sizes right. If the sizes were all in ratios of 1/2s, it might be easier to arrange them all, but you’re unlikely to end up with a gapless chunk of photos like what I’ve posted here, unless you randomly do some size adjustments at the very end to eliminate gaps.

Either way, wouldn’t the arrangement part be some variant of a packing algorithm? Should have taken a graph theory class…

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