Visualizing Human Development

I came across a fabulous tool on the Contagious Curiosity blog.  The tool is an interactive comparative visualization tool called Gapminder.  This application has been showcased at TED.   FYI, TED is Technology, Entertainment, Design – an annual conference that started in 1984 in an effort to coalesce the preeminent thinkers in those three areas.

I actually blogged briefly about Gapminder a few months ago because I was intrigued by the graphics, but didn’t really appreciate the amazing data correlations and analytical possibilities that it contained until I viewed a speech by Hans Rosling recorded at TED 2006.

Before I explain the tool, here is some background about the Gapminder organization:

Gapminder is a non-profit venture for development and provision of free software that visualise human development. This is done in collaboration with universities, UN organisations, public agencies and non-governmental organisations. Gapminder is a Foundation registered at Stockholm county administration board (Länstyrelsen) (reg. nr. 802424-7721). It was founded by Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund and Hans Rosling on 25 February 2005, in Stockholm. Gapminder Foundation will advance software development that have been done earlier by the non-profit company Gapminder Ltd. Funding has been and is mainly by grants from Sida for the Trendalyzer project. Being a producer of global public goods Gapminder benefit from free and creative inputs from pilot-testers and other end-users in many institutions and organisations.

Here is the speech by Hans Rosling explaining the Gapminder tool in February 2006.

And, here is Rosling’s follow-up speech in March 2007.

In case you don’t have time to listen to Rosling’s speeches (they are tremendously entertaining and I really recommend it), here’s the skinny on the Gapminder tool. It is a fairly robust visualization application that plots various data streams onto an interactive grid.  The size of the bubbles represents relative size of the data that is being analyzed.  So, for instance, if personal income by year is the plotted data, the USA and Western Europe would be represented by significantly larger bubbles than Southeast Asian nations.  The Gapminder site hosts a plethora of tools with different data spreads that can be downloaded to run locally or can be streamed via Flash online.  The site also contains handouts and posters, document analysis, and presentations.

So, if you thought that the data on Swivel was really cool, you’ll be entranced by what Gapminder has to offer.  Check it out!


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