CS-5630/6630 | Visualization | Fall 2014
Week 2: Where We Came From and Where We Went, State by State - Printable Version

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Week 2: Where We Came From and Where We Went, State by State - Jeff Webb - 09-04-2014 05:39 PM

Source: New York Times, August 19, 2014.
Where We Came From and Where We Went, State by State

This visualization is a set of interactive time series graphs of migration into and diaspora out of each state in the US from 1900 to 2012. The graphs can be toggled between migration and diaspora using a button in the upper right. The x-axis in each graph is implicitly organized by decade (I say “implicitly” because the time increments are not labeled on the axis but only appear interactively as the cursor is passed over the vertical lines in the graph). The y-axis represents 100% of the state population. The graph itself consists in strands representing the proportion of residents who have come from (or gone to) other states and regions. The strands are labeled clearly in the graph. But they are also color coded by region. So, for example, strands representing migration from/ diaspora into Western states are colored yellow. The key for this color scheme is conveyed in a small map of the US in the lower left of each graph that shows the colors indicating regions: the West, Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast. This legend also serves as a handy way of navigating between states, which are not always listed alphabetically on the webpage.

These graphs present tabular data consisting in items with attributes. The items here would be states and the attributes (though there are different ways of organizing the data) might be date-state combinations with the size of population inflow or outflow (or that remains) in each cell. The values in the cells would ordered (larger and smaller) but quantitative.

In terms of the visualization, cell values are represented by the thickness of a state's strand at a given date. Since some of the values are relatively small, the designers chose to aggregate these across regions. This makes the graph more legible. The percentage composition of a strand (state or region) for a given decade can be obtained by passing the cursor over the graph.

This is a comprehensive and sophisticated visualization that allows one to quickly discern patterns of migration/diaspora flows by state, and, when scrolling through the graphs, differences in these patterns between states. It is easy to see which states are more regionally insular, with comparatively static populations, and which are more cosmopolitan. Moreover, the interactivity built into these graphs makes them fun, and the pictures themselves are aesthetically interesting, even beautiful. Nevertheless, while I find these graphs impressive, I do have some questions about the design. I cannot discern a substantive reason for the wavy strands. When they cross, why do they cross? The braiding perhaps enhances visual interest, but it seems haphazard. I would have preferred for the crossing to mean something—for example, that strands above represent a higher percentage of state population than strands below, which would entail the strands be organized vertically by thickness at each decade line. Lines would then cross when one state or region overtook another percentage-wise. This would add an additional spatial logic to the organization of the graph. One other small quibble. Some of the labels are inscrutable. In the graphs for migration into Florida and Hawaii there are strands labeled “other states in the other US.” What is the “other US”? If the reference is to US Territories, then that would be a clearer label.

RE: Week 2: Where We Came From and Where We Went, State by State - mathewa - 09-04-2014 07:31 PM

Mostly clever, partly confusing --- that's my take.

First the clever part. The time series rollovers work wonders describing the changing percent of migration / diaspora. Also the width changes with the percentage showing the wave effect of the population. The US map below creates a great way to select different states and the migration / diaspora switch provide great functionality.

Now the confusing part. The switch, the title of the graph and the state selector are all outside of and somewhat disconnect from the main graph. Sure, I found them eventually but with so much 'junk' these days on web pages sometimes things outside of the natural grey window might be overlooked. I could envision someone simply noticing just the default migration of California (the default) and never realizing the other possibilities.

What might be some suggestions for improving this vis?

RE: Week 2: Where We Came From and Where We Went, State by State - aedunn - 09-06-2014 12:26 PM

As a transplant from Georgia to Utah, I found this set of visualizations very interesting.

I have two critiques/complaints. First, because of the color encoding, I was drawn to the "other states" strands at the bottom and it took me a while to realize that the big gray section was actually encoding relevant information (even with the huge "Born in ___" header).

Second, there are some slightly misleading parts. For example, when looking at "Migration into Utah" the "Born in other states in the Midwest" strand switches with the "Born in other states in the West" strand between 1940 and 1950. However, the percentage of people "Born in other states in the Midwest" hasn't actually changed.

RE: Week 2: Where We Came From and Where We Went, State by State - MukteshKhole - 09-06-2014 02:15 PM

I think the crossing over of strands is to represent that migration/diaspora either increased (strand moving up) or decreased (strand moving down) as such it is bound to cross some other strand.
The representation of data is good, if we needed accurate data may be the graph could support clicking on strands which says "To other states in West" and then scale the data only in that region to show migration/diaspora to the specific states in west.

RE: Week 2: Where We Came From and Where We Went, State by State - Yuedong Zhang - 09-07-2014 03:03 PM

I think one of the great features about this visualization is the pop up effects when moving the cursor over one of the strands. The strands will be surrounded with black boundaries and popped up to the top layer which will make the strand continuous. So we can easily see the data change over years.

Another critique is when I try to see the proportion changes over years for a thin strand, it is hard for me to focus the cursor in that area and it will show the data of the neighbor strands. I think it will be better if we can select a particular strand by clicking it and only show the proportion of that strand over years when moving the cursor.

RE: Week 2: Where We Came From and Where We Went, State by State - u0875378 - 09-07-2014 04:17 PM

This visualization work is with a very interesting theme about immigration stuffs inside the United States. And the data and strands in the picture are all straightforward and easy to use to get the information one needs, except for some confusing parts, like the twisting of two or several strands along the time axis, which could confuse people at first glance. But over time one would get the meaning of such confusing parts and realize how convenient and clever this visualization is, as long as he is patient enough to get into the picture, but not freaked out by the confusing parts.

RE: Week 2: Where We Came From and Where We Went, State by State - wgormley - 09-07-2014 07:52 PM

Before I read the critique I decided that I would make a list of what I thought was good and what I believed could use some improvement. My main goal was to see if my issues and the critiques issues were either the same or different. Our complaints were spot on. When I first saw the visualization I immediately thought that that the lines intertwined and changed positions to demonstrate the descending percentage order for all of the regions. But once I switched to the migration graph I become confused. Either the graphs had different schemes or there was something else at play. I then operated under the assumption that MukteshKhole stated, claiming that the intertwining was to represent change in percentages. But when examining this hypothesis more completely I cam across New York again on the migration graph. Its clear that from 1960 and on the percentage stays at 3% but the line goes up and down. So I am not sure if I should be reading into the movement of the lines or if its just meant to provide some visual contrast. Overall a very good critique.

RE: Week 2: Where We Came From and Where We Went, State by State - mmath - 09-07-2014 09:02 PM

As others have pointed out the crossing strands seem a bit confusing. At first I thought they were sorting the bands by the width of the stripes, but after checking several of the states I realized this is wrong. As a result of the crossing strands there is white space in some of the graphs that do nothing. Since the height of a band is supposed to represent the percentage there are areas with large amounts of white space where the relative band sizes do not correspond to their actual percentages. I think this could mislead the viewer.
Overall I think Jeff did a great job in his critique.

RE: Week 2: Where We Came From and Where We Went, State by State - Jyoti - 09-07-2014 11:11 PM

The information is presented very well. Even the combination of color coding used is also nice, it helps to understand the information clearly.
However, as pointed by others, the crossing strands are bit confusing. In the initial glance, it was difficult for me to understand it clearly. Also, the strand width is supposed to represent the population percentage, but it doesn't seem to be doing so. The white strips in between different strands waste space and they can easily be removed without affecting the understandability of graph. The vertical lines can also be removed. According to me, there is no need of having them.