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Week 6: Drought’s Footprint
10-02-2014, 07:53 AM
Post: #1
Week 6: Drought’s Footprint
Image Url: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/...print.html

The data being shown in this visualization is areas under moderate to extreme drought in June of each year from 1890s to 2000s. Maps and color were chosen to represent the data. The purpose of this visualization was to show the severity of 2012 June Drought in comparison to previous droughts. Orange color represents area under moderate to extreme drought in June. The choice of using maps and color was effective as it's intuitive and quick to compare between different years.

My first criticism is that it it hard to tell what each row represents. Since there are so many maps in one picture, it is visually daunting. So adding a brief comment to help the viewers' understanding would have improved this visualization. By taking a close look we can tell that each row represents ten years period.

I think this visualization can be improved by using x and y axis system to denote the passage of decades and years rather than putting each year in right beneath each map. Since there are too many numbers in a single visualization it is becoming distracting. Using axis system could make this visualization even more intuitive and easy to understand and represent the drought trend as a whole rather than breaking them apart by year.

I like the color choice of this visualization. It is nice to see a visualization having a single color to represent the main point. If it used different colors for different severities or regions, it would have looked even more complicated. Having a clear single criteria (moderate to extreme drought) and sticking with one color help simplify this visualization.

All in all, this visualization is great in that in captures large amount of data in a such a small space. Using a single color rather than a bunch helped simplify the problem. However, this visualization can be reorganized to improve simplicity.
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10-02-2014, 03:49 PM
Post: #2
RE: Week 6: Drought’s Footprint
The data seems to be precise to some extent, so using small maps renders this precision useless, therefore I think making the whole visualization a one large map and adding a slide bar which allows us to choose the year will make this visualization easier to navigate and clearer.

Also luminance can be used to represent the degree of drought severeness across the country.
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10-03-2014, 03:39 PM
Post: #3
RE: Week 6: Drought’s Footprint
I think this visualization is effective in conveying 2 messages:
1. In 1934, America faced the most intensive and widespread drought in between years 1899 and 2010.
2. Giving a general idea of what percentage of America was facing drought in the same period.

One downfall of this viz., I feel is that, moderate to extreme drought has not been quantified. For a layman, this is a very important piece of missing information.

I think the visualization could have been designed a little differently to convey more meaning effectively. The information to space ratio is too high. By placing small size maps so close to each other, there is a lot of information visible in one glance, it will take some for the observer to gather some useful information form them. Because the maps are so small and without any state borders, the most effected states/regions cannot be deciphered from it.

I like that all the maps have used the same color to represent the data. It shows that the designer is interested in representing the data with the whole country in mind and not each region/state.
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10-04-2014, 11:29 PM
Post: #4
RE: Week 6: Drought’s Footprint
I agree that use of a single color helps to simplify this visualization, as use of various colors would make it more complicated particularly with the data that is this large. However, I do not know if this visualization compares the data of 2012 to other years, as there is no comparison information found in the map provided. Too much of data actually makes it more complicated to actually compare anything. The visualization concentrates more about the percentage of drought each year in the United States and does not concentrate much with the location of the drought. In effect, it succeeds in producing the footprint of drought each year,but could not provide much additional information regarding the location or a comparison pattern.
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10-05-2014, 10:45 AM
Post: #5
RE: Week 6: Drought’s Footprint
The data for this visualization can be regarded as time series. The value of this time series is multidimensional geographical data. As a result, simple scatterplot does not work. The author use colored map to represent the multidimensional geographical data. Since span of the time horizon is quite long, from 1896 to 2012, the author wrapped the time horizon into decades and stacked them starting from the recent decades.

The visualization use color contrast to illustrate the area affected by drought. The choice of color is good in the sense that the reader can easily identify the drought area.

It is relatively easy to make comparisons between adjacent years. In particular, extreme cases can be identified quickly, such as 1934 and 2012.

One suggestion is that it might be a good idea to have an additional large map together with a slide bar which represent year. When the users drag the slide bar to change the year to be illustrated, the map will be updated to show the drought area for that area. By this new functionality, readers can get a better idea about the evolution of the drought over years.
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10-05-2014, 12:37 PM
Post: #6
RE: Week 6: Drought’s Footprint
I personally liked the idea of the designer to use multiple maps to indicate the drought prone areas within a time period.

Some of the points which could have improved the visualization.

1. @Khalid: I certainly agree, having a large individual map with a year slider would be a great way to design this visualization. But one of the problems that it might cause is it would be slightly difficult to compare between different years as at a time we would only be able to view one map of a particular year.

2. @u0862992: Regarding depicting the severity from moderate to severely draught areas. I agree that it would not be wise to use different colors in such visualization due to small nature of maps. However if we allow each of the maps to be clickable and then the enlarged map would have detailed description of the draught severity depicted with different colors. That would at least give us some information to perform a comparison.

For higher level information, the visualization does a good job. But I still feel if we wanted to perform a deep analysis, we would need more statistical data to perform useful analytics.
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10-05-2014, 01:18 PM
Post: #7
RE: Week 6: Drought’s Footprint
I like the visualization technique of showing multiple maps over a period of time. The choice of color is very good. Having a huge map with slider to change the year is a good idea however it might limit a user to compare between different years. Having an interactive element could be more useful where in the user might click on any map and it would pop out with more specific drought details for that year. Also user could click on two maps to compare between any given year.(In the current visualization its only possible to compare one map to the adjacent or nearby maps).
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10-05-2014, 03:01 PM
Post: #8
RE: Week 6: Drought’s Footprint
Quote:The choice of using maps and color was effective as it's intuitive and quick to compare between different years...My first criticism is that it it hard to tell what each row represents. Since there are so many maps in one picture, it is visually daunting.
Agreed, it was hard to immediately distinguish a particular year because of the amount of maps on one row and the lack of horizontal/vertical spacing in between the maps.

I think to improve this visualization they should use only one map that has a time slider(With range control) at the bottom of the chart so you can scroll through the data and view a particular range of data. To minimize the confusion caused by overlapping data in a range they could use onion skinning(Or perhaps some sort of stroked fill effect). Additionally, they should also add an animation control that automatically transitions through all of the data updating the maps display at a controllable time interval.
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10-05-2014, 04:47 PM
Post: #9
RE: Week 6: Drought’s Footprint
This visualization is simple.

However, using a single map and then providing a sliding bar for year selection to represent the drought severeness in different areas would have been a better approach. use of X & Y axis could also have been useful rather than showing a small map for each year which makes this visualization difficult to render.
Different shades of same color could have been used to represent the amount/severeness of drought.
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10-05-2014, 06:59 PM
Post: #10
RE: Week 6: Drought’s Footprint
As many others have already stated, having one large map with a way to scrub through each year could potentially be used to look for relevant information without being overwhelmed by the sheer number of maps being presented. One potential downside of this approach compared to the current representation is the loss of being able to glance back and forth between the maps for different years to make comparisons, since with a slider you have to keep old information in your working memory.

An interesting compromise may be going even further on the interactivity front. For instance, controls to add a new map instance with its own distinctive slider would have the advantage of both approaches, allowing the user to create as many small multiples for comparison as they want.

Someone else suggested color coding different severity levels to present even more information, but that could potentially add to the already overwhelming amount of data being presented. With interactive controls to display different ranges of severity, once again the user has the power to directly show or hide the information most relevant to their interests.

Though adding user options adds many benefits, one must also consider the overhead of additional programming time and avoiding over- complicating something that already has a clear message by throwing a confusing user interface on top of it.

As far as what could be accomplished using a static visualization that only is concerned with presenting the most severe conditions, I think the current visualization does a decent job. One thing that I would definitely change even if it were to remain static is to change the order the maps are displayed in. Chronologically, they are arranged from bottom to top by decade, but then left to right within each decade. I feel that swapping either arrangement would make more sense, so that reading the page from left to right and top to bottom would cause the years to appear either exactly in order or in reverse order starting from 2012.
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