September 22, 2007

Google GapMinder

Filed under: map — Tags: , , — ubikcan @ 12:20 pm

Google has a splendid new tool: the GapMinder.

Once again the advantages of Flash for interactivity and animation are made apparent in this nice little display. You can change the axes, and it links across to a live map in a way long sought by cartographers (known as atlas touring or the geographic brush).*

If you click on a country it will also track its movement over time in the graph space. In this case you can see the decline in South Africa’s life expectancy starting in 1975 and ending in 2004, even though income per capita has remained stable (this surprised me):

As you can see, the date is shown two ways; as the usual slider bar, but also as text in the background of the graph. This is completely innovative as far as I know and I must say, it works. You’re already looking at the data in the scatterplot and do not have to look away to see the date. A clever, simple solution to an old problem.

* Here is the famous image from Mark Monmonier’s 1990 article linked above. You can see the ideas are already there nearly 20 years ago (this is not take away from what the GapMinder people have done). The “brush” idea can be deployed in GapMinder by for example clicking on a continent and all the countries in that continent light up. You cannot however take a strictly geographic brush, for example from west to east. Also, Monmonier’s presentation is more complex because he can show interaction between three variables at once with the scatterplot matrix idea.

Update: I’m late to the party! This has been around for a while. But let’s just celebrate that I’m here at all. The GapMinder people have already presented twice to the TED Conference. Here’s this year’s talk.



  1. Are you sure that’s Flash? Looking at the page source, I’d say it’s all AJAX, which seems to be surpassing Flash lately in the WOW department…

    Comment by BenSlater — September 24, 2007 @ 11:00 am

  2. Could be. My rationale was that if you right-click on the graph the flash menu bar comes up.

    Perhaps someone with techier skillz could verify?

    Comment by ubikcan — September 24, 2007 @ 12:29 pm

  3. You’re right – it is Flash. Did you notice the drop down menus when you click on an axis title? There’s actually a lot more data in there than life expectancy and income.

    Comment by BenSlater — September 24, 2007 @ 1:40 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: