An exploratory project for the Dutch weekly de Groene Amsterdammer (yes: the Green Amsterdamer) concerning a survey posed to a large number of social scientists asking their assessment of the most important problems troubling the Netherlands currently.
As an end result 75 submissions were returned with answers in essay form detailing the biggest problem of the Netherlands, the most overblown issues and the most unnoticed issues according to the scientists. This made for a very large amount of textual content which would have been difficult to quickly get into.
We chose to see how quickly we could hook up Protovis to visualize the key issues according to each scientist. All of the essay style answers were clustered to a set of themes (by the people preparing the story) and this was input to Protovis’s bubble chart to give a tag cloud like representation of the issues. See the interactive chart on Groene.nl or the screenshot below:
The quick visual summary and the filters help drill down to a specific issue in a specific problem category quickly. Clicking a bubble displays links to the full text contribution of the relevant scientists.
This was mostly a process exploration to see how a default library such as Protovis could be employed in a journalistic context and to see where the bottlenecks fall. We found that Protovis’s explanatory power really shines if you have a good dataset. However it took some time to get the data machine-ready. The result was produced efficiently and adds a much needed visual summary to the slew of textual content. Most time was spent on wrangling the dataset and finalizing the interaction details of the chart.
The project got a fair amount of attention in national media (and links to the chart) e.g.: ‘Integratie meest overschatte probleem van deze tijd’ , ‘Wat zijn de 10 grootste sociale problemen van Nederland?’