As someone who’s eyes roll upside my head when presented with long data sets, datavisualization has been, is and will continue to be a joyous tool for understanding the complexities of numbers.
The Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Strategic Research Partnership appears to agree. The British consortium’s been gathering data about various aspects of civic life, and processing it through an open source datavisualization tool called Processing in order to create the visualization like the library checkout patterns you see in the screencast above.
Called vizLib, the project was funded by England’s Economic and Social Research Council and lead by Jason Dykes at City University London’s giCentre, one of the country’s largest data analysis centers.
According to a project press release:
The vizLib project analysed data collected from 450,000 users of Leicestershire’s 54 libraries, over a two year period. The graphics, based on postcodes, mapped factors such as the behavior of users from different areas, the usage profiles of individual libraries, the impact of geography on usage, and patterns of competition between small and larger libraries.
“Graphics are particularly effective where there is a spatial dimension to an issue. The problem often has two dimensions, and the graphic helps people to think in two dimensions,” explains Dykes in a press release. “The project shows how cutting-edge graphics — some of which are quite abstract and sophisticated — can be applied practically, to assist organizations like local authorities in the analysis and use of large, complex datasets.”
With the amount of public information now being introduced to the public through Open Government initiatives, it’s important to provide tools like these so that citizens can better inform themselves about how and where public funds and efforts are being used.
Key data sets available at the project web site also include social indicators such as crime, employment, demographics, education, health and housing among others.