Monday, June 1, 2009

The future of data visualization stupidity

What’s Wrong With this Graphic on the Future of Information?

O brave new world! That has such baloney in't! : Pharyngula


Ok, I don't know where to begin. X-axis, I guess. The really funky distortion on the x-axis distorts the areas of this graph so even if they meant something you couldn't make any inferences. The y-axis doesn't exist, making these areas meaningless even if you could rescale the x-axis. Even if you could find a common y-axis scale there is no differentiation between historical data and projection, but perhaps you could be astute to figure that out (no uncertainty intervals, though).

But there's an even more fundamental problem. The above graph is not about information at all, but rather media. So the graph is as much about information as its information content.

But you can take it even further. It looks like the poor "local marketplace" finally died out in 1998. But that ignores local marketplaces created by, say, social networks. Television stations have websites, blogs, and many even have social network sites. Newspapers and magazines have websites, blogs, and even social networks. To create such a sharp distinction in the graph above avoids a fundamental point about information media: that the lines are blurring, and will likely to stay blurred or even blur more in the future.

All in all, a useless graphic.