Exploring Data Visualization #18

In this monthly series, I share a combination of cool data visualizations, useful tools and resources, and other visualization miscellany. The field of data visualization is full of experts who publish insights in books and on blogs, and I’ll be using this series to introduce you to a few of them. You can find previous posts by looking at the Exploring Data Visualization tag.

Painting the World with Water

Creating weather predictions is a complex tasks that requires global collaboration and advanced scientific technologies. Most people know very little about how a weather prediction is put together and what is required to make it possible. NASA gives us a little glimpse into the complexities of finding out just how we know if it’s going to rain or snow anywhere in the world.

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Exploring Data Visualization #17

In this monthly series, I share a combination of cool data visualizations, useful tools and resources, and other visualization miscellany. The field of data visualization is full of experts who publish insights in books and on blogs, and I’ll be using this series to introduce you to a few of them. You can find previous posts by looking at the Exploring Data Visualization tag.

The unspoken rules of visualization

Title header of essay "The unspoken rules of data visualization" by Kaiser Fung. White text on a black background with green and red patches Continue reading

Our Graduate Assistants: Xena Becker

This interview is part of a series introducing our graduate assistants to our online community. These are some of the people you will see when you visit our space, who will greet you with a smile and a willingness to help! Say hello to Xena Becker!

A headshot of Xena Becker, a fair skinned woman with long dark hair wearing a green and blue scarf

What is your background education and work experience?
I graduated from New York University with a major in Comparative Literature and a minor in Global and Urban Education Studies. My focus in Comparative Literature was Archives and Library Science, which I personally tailored from classes available in the English, Comparative Literature, and Media, Culture, and Communications departments. Most of my work experience is in education; for a long time, I kept accidentally getting teaching jobs. I really enjoy teaching, though, and my experience as an educator ranges from theater to writing. When I was a junior, I started working in the special collections library at NYU and I have been working in libraries ever since. Now, at the University of Illinois, I work in the Scholarly Commons and the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, which is a really good balance for all of my interests.

What led you to your field?
When I was a sophomore in college, I took a class titled Papyrus to PDF: An Introduction to Book History Now. That class was my first introduction to special collections and archives and I was completely hooked. It was taught by an English professor and a rare books librarian in the special collections classroom and focused on the history of books as physical objects, rather than just as pieces of writing. The content of the class got me to pay attention, but the intricacies I was exposed to of the operation of special collections libraries was what made the class so memorable. I knew I wanted to be involved in stewarding and making available texts and materials to researchers and students, and what better place to do that than a library?

Additionally, though, I want to acknowledge that I was invited to enter librarianship by other librarians. My professor for Papyrus to PDF saw that I was interested in libraries and invited me to apply to work for her the next summer; in research consultations with subject librarians I would ask how they became interested in library science. Everyone was very open and encouraging to my questions and interests, which was another defining aspect of what led me to librarianship.

What are your research interests?
I am interested in expanding learning opportunities in archives and special collections—this means both increasing instruction education for library staff and making library spaces and materials more accessible for learners of all backgrounds. Within special collections I’m a little more open with my interests—I am one of many special collections librarians who refer to themselves as “generalists.” I try to keep my interests as open as possible, but I have done some more specific research on queer archival history, special collections instruction, and data visualization.

What are your favorite projects you’ve worked on?
I have enjoyed collaborating with our Data Analytics and Visualization Resident Librarian, Megan Ozeran, on projects that cover all areas of data visualization. Before working with Megan on data visualization projects, I had never really considered academic librarianship as a career that utilizes creative and artistic expression or builds on visual forms of communication—I thought it was all about text. However, learning about data visualization quickly changed my perspective on this and introduced me to a whole new area of skills to learn. Some of the things I have done with Megan include writing monthly blog posts, Exploring Data Visualization, that showcase interesting data viz examples from around the web. Another project was creating posters of historical data visualizations to display at our Data Visualization Competition. That project was a great opportunity to bridge my roles at the Scholarly Commons and the Rare Book and Manuscript Library to show off the cool historic data visualizations out there.

What are some of your favorite underutilized resources that you would recommend?
Our creative software! We have access to the full Adobe Creative Suite in the Scholarly Commons as well as some open source alternatives, and I love toying around with them and figuring out what we can do to make this software useful for our patrons.

When you graduate, what would your ideal job position look like?
My ideal position would be working in a special collections library doing instruction and outreach. I want to continue sharing what I’ve learned about libraries and collections with as many people as possible through classes, exhibits, social media, and other creative forms of outreach. I love working with the public either at a reference desk or through events and classes, so I want to work somewhere that focuses on bringing people and collections together. I would love to keep working at a college or university, but I’m open to working somewhere like a museum or public library as well. Finally, I’d love to work somewhere that has collections that cover areas that interest me or focus on representing diverse voices.

What is the one thing you would want people to know about your field?
That librarianship can look like so many different things—there’s no one way to be a librarian. Many people who work in libraries don’t consider themselves librarians, and many people who should be considered librarians aren’t. Working in libraries has taught me that I will always be able to learn new skills or try new things, all of which can still be librarianship!

Exploring Data Visualization #16

Daylight Saving Time Gripe Assistant Tool

Clocks fell back this weekend, which means the internet returns once again to the debate of whether or not we still need Daylight Saving Time. Andy Woodruff, a cartographer for Axis Maps, created a handy tool for determining how much you can complain about the time change. You input your ideal sunset and sunrise times, select whether the sunset or sunrise time you chose is more important, and the tool generates a map that shows whether DST should be gotten rid of, used year-round, or if no changes need to be made based on where you live. The difference a half hour makes is surprising for some of the maps, making this a fun data viz to play around with and examine your own gripes with DST.

A map of the United States with different regions shaded in different colors to represent if they should keep (gray) or get rid of (gold) changing the clocks for Daylight Saving Time. Blue represents areas that should always use Daylight Saving Time.

This shows an ideal sunrise of 7:00 am and an ideal sunset of 6:00 pm.

Laughing Online

Conveying tone through text can be stressful—finding the right balance of friendly and assertive in a text is a delicate operation that involves word choice and punctuation equally. Often, we make our text more friendly through exclamations points! Or by adding a quick laugh, haha. The Pudding took note of how varied our use of text-based laughs can be and put together a visual essay on how often we use different laughs and whether all of them actually mean we are “laughing out loud.” The most common laugh on Reddit is “lol,” while “hehe,” “jaja,” and “i’m laughing” are much less popular expressions of mirth.

A proportional area chart showing which text laughs are most used on Reddit.

“ha” is the expression most likely to be used to indicate fake laughter or hostility

how to do it in Excel: a shaded range

Here’s a quick tip for making more complex graphs using Excel! Storytelling with Data’s Elizabeth Ricks put together a great how-to article on making Excel show a shaded range on a graph. This method involves some “brute force” to make Excel’s functions work in your favor, but results in a clean chart that shows a shaded range rather than a cluster of multiple lines.

A shaded area chart in Excel

Pixelation to represent endangered species counts

On Imgur, user JJSmooth44 created a photo series to demonstrate the current status of endangered species using pixilation. The number of squares represent the approximate number of that species that remains in the world. The more pixelated the image, the fewer there are left.

A pixelated image of an African Wild Dog. The pixelation represents approximately how many of this endangered species remain in the wild (estimated between 3000 and 5500). The Wild Dog is still distinguishable, but is not clearly visible due to the pixelation.

The African Wild Dog is one of the images in which the animal is still mostly recognizable.