Visuals of the Data Viz

This is a sketch of what I am trying to do… either working on a plane that is rotated (like such) for view, with the protruding data (like Herwig Scherabon); or rotating globes with the data mapped on the 3dimensional sphere. I’m more inclined towards working on a plane, just because it makes more sense, more readable.

A reference that I have been using to learn up: Daniel Shiffman’s 3D Terrain Generation. A lot of what I will be referencing comes from Shiffman’s Youtube channel The Coding Train, I’m trying to understand and use parts of each of his projects to build my own.

I played around with the code which he made available here on Github, but really all I did was to see how I can change colours and sizes and constraints.

My main takeaway from this is learning how to draw a grid with flexible x,y coordinates in relation to the screen size within Processing. This is so hopefully I can attach the long and lat coordinates of countries to a grid and manipulate shapes on each coord point with the extra dimension of height.

Another useful reference: 3D Earthquake Data Visualisation also by Shiffman (because Shiffman is king of teaching coding). Actually, this may be the most useful with what I’m trying to do in terms of planting the data by location, but I will have to map on a flat plane instead of a 3D sphere.

Shiffman’s code for this project available here on Github.

The Idea: News Accessibility Around The World

The idea is compare international news accessibility all over the world, by visualising the consumption of a global trending topic in all the nations of the world.

First I will need: data (live, constantly updated)

  1. Trending news topic—this topic has to be global, predetermined already by a news source. Potential sources could be or @trendingtopics on Twitter.
  2. Metadata—collection of “mentions” about the trending topic in various forums/platforms. I will need the information, the metadata, of the “mention”, namely the quantity, location and time. Potential sources I intend to look from include Twitter and online news networks (preferably, the national paper of the country).

Second I will need: visual

  • Processing sketch, likely utilising P3D (for 3-dimensional visuals)
  • The data (quantity) will have to be geographically by nation.

My main visual reference will be Income Inequality by Herwig Scherabon

Challenges I expect to face:

Really, I’m most worried about collecting the data, especially working with live feeds. Previously I had worked with static data that was already recorded and formatted. I intend to first figure out how to import data from Twitter (which is live and constantly updating, so it could be more dynamic), which will be my main challenge.

Starting off!

This post, is just kickstarting the project… finding the flavour of what I’ll be doing. What I have solidified at this point is the medium of Processing, since I want to further explore (with more depth, this time) data visualisations and I found the last time that it’s great for number crunching.

Last semester I began by referencing Tatiana Plakhova… I was searching for organic patterns, for generated art. Her stuff is really cool, based on “based on mathematical simplicity and harmony”. I’m still looking at her work as a visual reference.


RED JELLYFISHES from Tatiana Plakhova on Vimeo.

Coming from a sociology background I’d like to investigate patterns found in quantifiable data and present my findings as a visual+audio (and hopefully, interactive(???)) experience. But this time I hope to take into consideration more variables and the messages reflected in the patterns.

So having a better idea of what exists out there in the field, I’ve gathered some resources/inspiration of data vis:

Moritz Stefaner‘s Project Ukko – seasonal wind predictions for the energy sector.  It’s an interactive browser application that allows the user to explore the data based on climate models. I find this is a great reference of translating what is first a web application to another format that is an alternative experience in the form of an ambient installation in video form.



Project Ukko: Ambient Loop from Moritz Stefaner on Vimeo.

moovel Lab‘s Roads to Rome is a project about the roads connecting major cities. This one I find inspiration in that it’s a beautifully abstracted visual that still reflects a very human characteristic: mobility.


Similar inspiring pieces:

What’s your pay gap? for Wall Street Journal by Lam Thuy Vo, Jessia Ma and Paul Overberg, accounts for differences in pay of the different genders by occupation. This is one of the pieces I found that talks about a more relevant issue.


And (also another hot social issue discussed)

Income Inequality by Herwig Scherabon where the height of these blocks corresponds to the income in the respective output area (cities including LA, Chicago and New York). I find this visual (presented as 2D prints) by far the most interesting, and I imagine something similar but with an animated (where appropriate) or interactive element would be great to look at.


Schrabon also does loads of other cool relevant data vis(es):

The Atlas of Gentrification


and Nine Maps of Glasgow.


Reflecting on these now, I find a common thread all these references have (that my past work had as well) in that their images are based on cartography, very geographic visuals. I’d like to explore in this oncoming project, a different canvas maybe… imagined spaces, borderless areas, data plotted but not on a map.

In terms of concept for the piece I’m about the begin, I’m looking into the big data sources available out there to find a subject worth talking about. Some resources:

Data in Gapminder World (recorded data in excel sheets)

Numbeo (user contributed data)

Google Trends (this is google. Google knows everything)


That’s the first step into this. Right now feels very much like the beginning of last semester, just less clueless about where to start.