Ben Shneiderman

BITS – Ben Shneiderman’s Map Data Art

In ALL, BITS by Alex

Computer Sciences Professor Ben Shneiderman of the University of Maryland was always drawn to the appealing aesthetic of treemaps. Used as an information visualization technique, treemapping is a method used in computer science for displaying hierarchical data by using nested rectangles.

“Although I conceived treemaps for purely functional purposes (understanding the allocation of space on a hard drive), I was always aware that there were appealing aesthetic aspects to treemaps. Maybe my experiences with OP-ART movements of the 60s & 70s gave me the idea that a treemap might become a work of art….

I believe that some topics yield data that have more vitality and interest for viewers: maybe sports data, political elections, Hollywood films, popular music, nature, pets, health, science, etc. For example, would the carbon emissions of countries around the world produce a treemap that could be laid out by the slice-and-dice or squarified algorithms and then colored in a way that would engage the eye and mind? Would the batting averages of all the players for the Washington Nationals (or New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox) interest sports fans?

Some data might be personal such as weight loss-gain or personal income-expenditures, while others might be corporate such as number of employees per division or profit/loss over 10 years.

Colored rectangular regions have been a popular theme in 20th century art, most notably in the work of Piet Mondrian, whose work was often suggested to have close affinity with treemaps. Not all his designs are treemaps, but many are. His choice of colors, aspect ratios, and layout are distinctive, so simulating them with a treemap is not as trivial as you might think. Gene Davis’ large horizontal paintings with vertical stripes of many colors were more easily generated with treemap layouts. The rectangles in Josef Albers “Homage to the Square” or Mark Rothko’s imposing paintings are not treemaps, but generating treemap variants triggered further artistic explorations. Other modern artists such as Kenneth Noland, Barnett Newman, and Hans Hofmann gave further provocations to the images in this collection. ” – Ben Shneiderman

“Urban Blues – The dataset was collected from World Bank’s website. This contains urban population count, and annual urban population growth percentage for all countries for the year 2010. We filtered the data to include countries with urban population of 20 million or more. This resulted in 36 records. The box sizes represent urban population count for individual country. The wide horizontal layout and vertical stripes are inspired by Gene Davis’s style. Countries with negative urban population growth are colored in pink – here we find only Ukraine under this criteria. Other countries are colored in a black to blue scale where black represents zero urban population growth and blue represents the highest among this countries (6.25%).”
Ben Shneiderman

Urban Blues

“Blooming Business – This dataset was collected from World Bank’s Doing Business website. The dataset contains new firm count (the number of newly registered corporations during the calendar year) and new firm density (the number of newly registered limited liability companies per 1,000 working-age people) for all countries for individual years from 2004 to 2011. In the visualization, the box size represents new firm count and the colors represent various degrees of firm density – grey is lowest, then yellow, orange and teal is highest. The countries are grouped into major economic groups. The countries are again subdivided into different years. There are 864 records in this dataset.”
Ben Shneiderman

Blooming Business

“We Are The World – The dataset was collected from World Bank’s website. The size of the boxes represent urban population count of countries. They are colored according to the urban population growth percentage – negative values are colored magenta. Positive values start at light purple and then gradually shift to dark purple and then yellow for higher values. The countries are grouped into three equally dense bins in terms of population growth percentage.”
Ben Shneiderman

We Are The World

“Out There In the Air – The dataset was collected from US Energy Information Administration. It contains 2010 data on total CO2 Emission (million metric tons) as well per capita CO2 emission (metric tons of CO2 per person) for all countries categorized into 7 continents. There are 224 records in total. The size of the boxes represents CO2 emission for countries while the color varies by per capita CO2 emission. The coloring was done via categorizing countries into 6 equally dense bins for per capita CO2 emission.”
Ben Shneiderman

Out There In the Air

“Frequent Flyers – This dataset was collected from via The boxes represent the ratio of international to domestic flights for individual airports. Larger sizes indicate more international flights. The different colors represent the variation in total number of routes served by that airport. Greens represent less busy airport while the bright hues show ones with large number of routes.”
Ben Shneiderman

Frequent Flyers

“Green Terps – This dataset was collected from Maryland Open Data website. The dataset contains historical data on total grant amount awarded to different clean energy projects. The projects are grouped first by county and then by zipcode. They are aggregated into four different technology types and were colored accordingly: solar hot water, solar PV, geothermal and wind. The colors were chosen to represent the Maryland flag. Each box represents the total amount grant awarded for a certain technology in certain zip code. The items were filtered to show only values below $40,000 for grant award amount.”
Ben Shneiderman

Green Terps

“The Big Urbans – This urban population dataset for the year 2010 was collected from World Bank’s website. The visualization shows countries with 23.3 million or more urban population. The box sizes are urban population count. The color represents population density (people per sq. km of land area) with the highest being greenish yellow (Bangladesh: 1159) and the lowest being purple (Canada: 4). The coloring was done in 4 equally dense bins and using linear scale. The color palette was inspired by multiple Josef Albers’ works while the composition and arrangement was inspired by Gene Davis. The diversity of city life is conveyed by the lively colors.”
Ben Shneiderman

The Big Urbans

“The New World – The dataset was collected from World Bank’s website. In this strip treemap, the box sizes represent population density of people per sq. km of land area. The color represents annual urban population growth percentage. Negative values are colored in less darker brown. Positive values are colored from yellowish brown (0%) to dark brown (6.25%). The data is filtered to have countries with population density of 100 or more people per sq. km of land area (91 records). Countries are grouped into two equally dense bins for population density.”
Ben Schneiderman

The New World

“Dazzling Talks – This visualization shows statistics about certain TED talks. The dataset was compiled by Sebastian Wernicke for his TED talk on Lies, damned lies and statistics. Each of the boxes represents the engagement score for a certain TED talk. The colors depend on the total number of bookmarks for that certain TED talk. The coloring was done in 8 equally dense bins with pink being highest and red being lowest. The colors here try to capture the variety and charismatic excellence of the TED talks.”
Ben Shneiderman

Dazzling Talks

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