I think I’ve got a gazillion twitters about this new interactive from the datacrunchers at New York Times, Shan Carter, Amanda Cox, Kevin Quealy and Amy Schoenfeld.
And every tweet seems to be positive – that’s amazing. Even the grumpy people over at junkcharts.typepad.com has more positive than negative to say about this project. What is it that captures us into playing with this interactive visualization? A secret wish to become a demographic professor?
I went there and played around too, but I have to be honest and say, that while I admire the work in a certain respect I at the same time regret to see so many hours spent on visualizing data, which I find rather boring. The dataset simply doesn’t hold up as game-material for me … I am not exactly thrilled to learn that an unemployed work a lot less and sleeps more than a guy with a job.
Also – you soon end up with complete useless diagrams, when you go to the subsets. When 2% of people doing a given activity is labeled as peak hours, it’s not really interesting to see it on a scale from 0-100%. – So at this time the fun for me consists of ‘beating the data’: Try to get the graph do weird things – like telling you for how long those unemployed work – or see how few spend their time thinking (and relaxing).
Btw – a guy named Jeff Talbot made something a bit similar back in February: research.justintalbot.org/ourday/ – unfortunately Justin doesn’t have the ‘visual kazoom’ they have at NYT, so it’s a bit more demanding on your eyes and your spatial abilities to play around with his dataset.
Of course I’m a bit worried to realize that I’m the only one, who hasn’t a wanna-be demographer buried inside my brain – but then I read, that the source for this graphic, American Time Use Survey, is in danger of being shut down due to serious cuts in the budget of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau-bosses think the survey is ‘lower-priority’. The survey apparently costs $5-6 million to carry out each year. A high price to pay for asking a couple of thousands of Americans to keep track of their day for the benefit of a few statisticians, who argues that this is ‘The single most important data initiative begun in the latest 35 years’. Wow, I don’t think I’ll be happy to know about the other initiatives then.
The statisticians get a lot of support from all kinds of organizations (ex: Mothers & More (!)) who protest the Bush government plans. Not sure how it ended up with Obama winning the election though – democrats might be more interested in this survey than republicans? At least this NYT interactive might help keep the data initiative alive for a couple of years, so kudos to them. Just don’t automatically hand out the Peter Sullivan Award in next years Malofiej for this piece, and I’ll shut up for now.