Interactive Map for Journalism: Poison or Panacea?

The main principle of data visualization is to present as much information as possible as well as in a visually appealing way. When geographic information is involved, map is the best way. The interactive map “Immigration and Jobs: Where U.S. Workers Come From” published by New York Times is a very good example of how to combine different data information using maps.

This Tableau-like visualization project (this project is made by JavaScript, but Tableau Public can perform the same without coding) combines map, charts, color, and size.

Regions and countries are grouped by continent, and represented by different colors, for example, purple stands for Europe and orange stands for Asia. Each circle presents a specific country, and the diameter of the circle display the population. The bigger the diameter, the larger population of emigrants to US that country has. Therefore, only by observing the map, the reader can tell that Mexico contributes the largest amount of foreign workers to US. When hovering over certain circle, more data information of that country is provided. As you can tell from the picture, when I put my mouse over the circle of Philippines, the estimated number of Philippine workers and margin of error appears.

However, the map is not able to show the ranking of those numbers. Therefore, the newspaper edited a chart on top ten countries after mapping. Each chart bar is colored in correspondent to the colors on the map.

The whole project provides two filtering standard: one is by country, one is by occupation. The filtering section is positioned as sidebar.

If filtered by country, for example, looking for detailed information of India. A map of India appears at the top of sidebar, and ranking of different occupation shows on the right.

If filtered by occupation, categories and sub-categories of occupation shows as a drop-down menu. When clicking on a certain job, for example, waiters and waitresses, a world map decorated with colored circles explains countries where foreign waiters and waitresses working in US are originally from. A chart as well shows at the bottom of the map, offering ranking information of different countries.

Mapping is a double-edged sword. A good map can provide rich information to the readers in a very clear and neat fashion. A bad one can easily let the readers click the close tab as soon as they see it. The key point of mapping is to combine as much information by including color, shapes, and sizes. At the same time, the whole project has to keep its consistency and logic, so use same shape and color representing the same category of information on different charts and maps. The readers can be overwhelmed by chaotic and illogical map.

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