Top 10 Visualizations of 2011

There has been lots of reviews of the best visualizations of 2011. FlowingData’s collection is particularly good and represents a wide variety of the best data graphics and animations around. Others such as those from, Fastcodedesign and highlight the vast array of incredible infographics and data visualizations created during the year.

My top ten are listed below with a brief description and link to the originals.

1. Twitter map showing traffic surges after Japan tsunami

Spread of information

Twitter saw a huge 500% increase in Tweets from Japan as people reached out to friends, family and loved ones in the moments after the March 2011 earthquake. This video above shows the volume of @replies traveling into and out of Japan in a one-hour period just before and then after the earthquake. Replies directed to users in Japan are shown in pink; messages directed at others from Japan are shown in yellow.

Personal messages from Japan

This video above displays worldwide retweets of Tweets originating in Japan for one hour after the earthquake. Senders’ original Tweets are shown in red; Tweets retweeted by their followers in the hour after the event are displayed in green.

(via StoryFul)

2) History of the world in 100 seconds, according to Wikipedia

A History of the World in 100 Seconds from Gareth Lloyd on Vimeo.

BBC Software engineer Gareth Lloyd scraped all geotagged Wikipedia articles with time attached to them in order to create a glimpse of the evolution of the world. The video above is based on a mapping over time of 14,200 events listed on Wikipedia.

Events begin in 499 BC, when the first documented historical events appear in Europe. We then move onto the middle mark which shows activity in Asia. 1492 is when Columbus sailed to the new world, and there’s a burst of activity worldwide. The present day shows an image of activity resembling a modern map.

(via FlowingData)

3. How news is shared and read with Project Cascade (NYTimes)

The New York Times Lab Cascade project describes itself as a tool to ‘allow for the precise analysis of the structures which underly sharing activity on the web’.

Cascade allows for precise analysis of the structures which underly sharing activity on the web. This first-of-its-kind tool links browsing behavior on a site to sharing activity to construct a detailed picture of how information propagates through the social media space. While initially applied to New York Times stories and information, the tool and its underlying logic may be applied to any publisher or brand interested in understanding how its messages are shared.

The video below represents what a cascade for a typical article looks like:

(via FlowingData)

4. Global Map of Social Networking 2011

The Global Map of Social Networking 2011 is a great example of how multiple visualizations can be combined into one.


The map is used well to show general location, but it fades into the background since it is not the most important information. The bar charts show great data about quantity, and the venn diagrams show how those quantities overlap each other.

(via )

4. Riot Rumors

The Guardian’s London riots animation highlights how misinformation spread on Twitter during a time of crisis. It shows how these rumors are born, spread, and are corrected on one of the fastest social networks around.
The analysis done by the team is great, and calls out some pivotal events in the timeline of each rumor. As the timeline progresses, the main visualization grows and changes like popcorn, showing the interaction of different rumor threads.
For more on how the Guardian created the animation, check the Guardian’s article on its data blog.

(via )

5. US Growth Visualized Through Post Offices

This fantastic visualization from Derek Watkins hows how ‘formal US territorial control expanded in North America from 1700 to 1900, as seen through changes in the spatial distribution of post offices’.

(via )

6. Felton’s 2010 Annual Report

Each year, graphic designer Nicholas Felton creates an “annual report” summarizing an entire year of his life through a series of charts and graphs. For 2010, instead of representing his own life he captured the entire life of his father, Gunter, who died last September.

The 2010 Feltron Annual Report

7. TrashTrack

The TrashTrack project asked the question “Why do we know so much about the supply chain and so little about the ‘removal-chain'”. The result was the fascinating video and visualization above which won the NSF International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge.

It used hundreds of small, location aware tags attached to different types of trash to follow progress of trash through city’s waste management system. These revealed the stunning final journey of everyday trash in a series of real time visualizations. The project represented “an initial investigation into understanding the ‘removal-chain’ in urban areas and it represents a type of change that is taking place in cities: a bottom-up approach to managing resources and promoting behavioral change through pervasive technologies”.

8. London Bike Map

London Bike Share

This map visualizes all bikes of the public hire schemes in London and many other cities throughout the world. The animated map displays information on the distribution of all the checkin points, the level of use at any given time and the availability of bicycles at each point.

Along with the interactive map, there is a superb real-time animation of the use of bikes in London.

London Hire Bikes animation from Sociable Physics on Vimeo.

9. 7 days of earthquakes in Japan

10. What Facebook Knows About You

Earlier this year an Austrian law student Max Schrems sent a request to Facebook to provide him with all his personal data. As Facebook has its European Operations center within the EU – in Dublin, Ireland – it must conform to EU law, and thus was obliged to provide all the data it stored about him.

Facebook sent Max received a CD containing about 1,222 pages (PDF files). This included deleted chats and other interactions dating back to 2008. This data was then visualized by Berlin-based newspaper

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