Yesterday’s post about mapumental has gotten me thinking about visualisation. Something that has always struck me as a bit of a paradox is that I’m a highly visual thinker, but I’m really bad at graphics. Which is frustrating. But one the reasons that I like network analysis so much is that it provides some really good and useful visual output. I’ve run across a few posts recently that are useful sources for information about visualisation.
That graphic is from the outstanding article ‘The Product Space & the Wealth of Nations‘, which is one of those articles that I really wish I had written myself. This pretty well describes what they’re getting at in the article:
Think of a product as a tree and the set of all products as a forest. A country is composed of a collection of firms, i.e., of monkeys that live on different trees and exploit those products. The process of growth implies moving from a poorer part of the forest, where trees have little fruit, to better
parts of the forest. This implies that monkeys would have to jump distances, that is, redeploy (human,
physical, and institutional) capital toward goods that are different from those currently under production. Traditional growth theory assumes there is always a tree within reach; hence, the structure of
this forest is unimportant. However, if this forest is heterogeneous, with some dense areas and other
more-deserted ones, and if monkeys can jump only limited distances, then monkeys may be unable to move through the forest. If this is the case, the structure of this space and a country’s orientation within it become of great importance to the development of countries.
The visualisations in the article are beautiful too. It’s one of the many fantastic visualisations featured at visualcomplexity.com.
I was also delighted to find out today that Edward Tufte has his own website. He is one of the best recent thinkers on the topic of visually presenting data, and the various methods available to do so. His site has a lot of resources available, and his books are well worth checking out.
The post that got me started on all this today was this one from the simple complexity blog, which discusses a couple of books relating to displaying business data effectively. My thinking is that if I read more stuff like this, maybe I’ll get better at it….
EDIT: More great visualisation from Hidalgo, Barabasi & co in their article on the spread of viruses on mobile phones…