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Obama | One People [senseable.mit.edu] consists of two "dazzling" visualizations that celebrate Barack Obama and the people who supported him from all over the U.S. and the world. The maps are based on mobile phone call activity that characterize the inaugural crowd and answer the questions: "Who was in Washington, D.C. for President Obama's Inauguration Day?" and "When did they arrive, where did they go, and how long did they stay?"

The data analyzed consists of hourly counts of mobile phone calls served in Washington, D.C. and includes the origin of the phones involved in the calls. The map of Washington, D.C. is overlaid with a 3D color-coded animated surface of square tiles (1 tile represents an area of 150 x 150 meters). Each tile rises and turns red as call activity increases and likewise drops and turns yellow as activity decreases. On the left, a bar chart breaks down the call activity by showing the normalized contributions of calls from the 50 states and 138 foreign countries grouped by continent. The timeline at the bottom illustrates the overall trend of call activity in the city during the week of the Presidential Inauguration.

"Examining the relative increase in call activity by state reveals some unexpected results. The states with the strongest increase were the southern states of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee, with calls up to twelve times the normal levels. These are states that played a prominent role in the Civil Rights movement and notably are also so-called red states whose voting population went for the Republican candidate, John McCain. Other states with a ten-fold increase in call activity were Illinois, Barack Obama's home state, and Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, swing states which went blue, voting for President Obama. Most interestingly, comparing these results with U.S. demographic statistics shows that the percentage of African Americans in each U.S. state is a predominant factor determining increase in call activity and therefore participation in the event, which instead was not necessarily influenced by the state's proximity to Washington, D.C. or its political leaning." Other data analysis findings are described here.

Watch the three accompanying movies below.

See also World's Eyes: Mapping the Visual Traces of Tourism in Spain, Senseable City of New York, Real Time Rome and Mobile Phone Landscape Graz. Via datavisualization.ch.



The 3D jazz really gets in the way of understanding the data, I think. A shame! This is a cool idea.

Wed 27 May 2009 at 7:24 AM

I think the "3D jazz" could help you identify overall trends in the data. There's only so much you can see from a non-interactive video with fixed perspective and timescale. The real power in this kind of visualisation technique comes from being able to select, filter and interrogate for the classes of data you want to follow.

Wed 27 May 2009 at 1:05 PM
Dr. Curiosity

No, I agree. The 3D rotation is really annoying.

Fri 29 May 2009 at 1:01 PM

I think there's a point where data visualization becomes more about style than actually making the data mean something.

Granted, the idea was cool, but when presenting data like this, the spiking graphs to the left side of the page were not given sufficient context or meaning, detracting from making any trend in the data.

Furthermore, the 3D rotation without a doubt will annoy most viewers. Maybe if it was an applet with user-controlled rotation, it might allow for further interpretation, but it just messes with people's perspectives.

Fri 05 Jun 2009 at 11:15 AM
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