Breaking Down the Budget

Anybody see the Daily Pennsylvanian today? There was a big infographic on the front page about the operating budget for the Undergraduate Assembly. Although I was initially excited about the graphic, I was immediately reminded of an article about a similar graphic that I read yesterday on Flowing Data. Nathan, the author of this article, asked Flowing Data readers to find flaws in this infographic. One of the comments on the Flowing Data entry read:

“Well I would say they drew the circles with radius relative to the presented [quantity], which translates visually [into] something relative [to the] square of the quantity… remember – we see the circle area which is = PI * radius ^ 2. They should have used radius = constant * sqrt(quantity)…”

Perhaps this is nit-picky, but I am left looking at the DP infographic and wondering – are the circles actually in proportion to one another in some way? Were the circles’ areas calculated? Or, were the radii simply calculated (a task much easier to perform using Adobe Illustrator)? So, are we really getting a sense of on what the UA’s money is being spent, or is there some visual bias being imparted to the DP readership?

Daily Pennsylvanian, "Breaking Down the Budget" by Vivian Zhang

The Cartographer’s Tradeoff

Given that we’re all working on maps, I found the introduction to the scientific paper that Ted is using for his algorithm relevant. Check out the full PDF: “Maps of random walks on complex networks reveal community structure”, but I’ve pasted a snippet for you:

To create a good map, the cartographer must attain a fine balance between omitting important structures by oversimplification, and obscuring significant relationships in a barrage of superfluous detail. The best maps convey a great deal of information, but require minimal bandwidth: the bestmaps are also good compressions. By adopting an information-theoretic approach, we can measure how efficiently a map represents the underlying geography— and we can measure how much detail is lost in the process of simplification. This allows us to quantify and resolve the cartographer’s tradeoff.

Rosvall, Bergstrom. 2007.