Minding the Gap

Jim Pickworth pointed me to Hans Rosling’s series of TED talks. Clearly I have been sleeping and missed pointers to these in the past. roslingHans Rosling is an amazingly dynamic and fluid presenter who has embarked on a mission of data liberation. His talks have seemingly inspired the UN to release public health data that had been kept a guarded secret. Armed with this data he has created a wonderful flash based data animation tool called GapMinder. The tool is fun to play with if only purely from a visualization perspective. That he has provided UN worldwide data on matters such as infant mortality, carbon emissions and wealth, allows a layperson such as myself to explore the relationship between these variables for individual countries.

Its well worth your while to appreciate Rosling’s presentation style and to hear his message. He is a professor of international health in Sweden and co-founder of Médecins sans Frontièrs Sweden. He has lived the data. And what he presents is a startling corrective to our understanding of disparities in the world and to how we perceive progress. If you have watched Al Gore experiment with Keynote, prepare to be amazed by Rosling.

Rosling’s GapMinder is spectacular because it has that casual demonstration of how the data is changing over time. The animation of this is compelling. But going beyond the simple time series presentation, one aspect that I really like about the software’s presentation is that it allows you to tag individual countries to create tails so that you can see global perspective with a separate layer of an individual county’s change over time.

Rosling has made complex statistical interpretation approachable by the masses and he isn’t dumbing it down to do so. In the fashion of the David Weinberger talk I blogged previously, Rosling is challenging data ownership and allowing for individual participation, mashup and contribution through data liberation.

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