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This post was written by Andy Kirk, founder and editor of visualisingdata.com. Andy will be guest editing Information Aesthetics for a short period while Andrew takes a well earned break.

DataAppeal is a recently launched web-based visualization application which enables users to produce three- and four-dimensional data maps and animations. It is based on concepts emerging from the 2010 book "The Exposed City: Mapping the Urban Invisibles" by Dr Nadia Amoroso who is the site's founder.

Based on a simple upload of data from Excel, DataAppeal is straightforward to use with a design created in three easy steps. Thereafter, you can manipulate the shapes, colours, effects, size and motion to suit your design needs.

The image above presents a map of New York with the location and size of bubbles encoding the year 2000 population data. Another example can be found in this Globe and Mail video from a May 2011 article about the prevalence of diabetes in Toronto. The second additional image shown below shows a still from this video, the first additional image represents the amount of green park space in or around the Lake Michigan region in the US.

Enhanced, premium versions of DataAppeal are in the pipeline but in the meantime the tool is free of charge with just the constraint of a maximum upload of 5,000 rows per file.





Recognising that effective and intuitive 3D and 4D mapping *are* the frontier for contemporary GIS, I just don't see how this tool marks an improvement over currently available apps.

The big problem for me is that interpreting volumes seems much harder than interpreting chloropleth maps. Aside from the fact that this approach largely detaches the value from its geographical context, I also notice that from the legend it *seems* to me like it's the radius or diameter that's increasing in line with the data even though the area will be increasing at (roughly) twice that rate and the volume at 3 times that rate... this has to be a major no-no because it causes us to radically overestimate what's happening in the big bubbles.

I applaud the attempt to integrate Google Maps with basic GIS functionality, but I have serious concerns about this approach (as embodied in the demo maps, perhaps there are other maps that don't have this problem).

Tue 16 Aug 2011 at 10:42 AM

Multidimensional mapping through 3D + interactivity is a really interesting area of research. However it should be about experiential experience of data sets, rather than for visual compression of quantity.

Mapping quantities to spheres is always confusing given that it places data about demographics into the air, rather than grounded to the map. However mixing in other media types like site recordings, location based imagery etc can ground the information and give localized context to the viewer. I'm not sure the full advantages of an immersive 3D experience are availed in this app.

Mon 22 Aug 2011 at 7:38 AM
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