Early maps and diagrams. A little bit of history

The earliest seeds of visualization arose in geometric diagrams, in tables of the positions of stars and other celestial bodies, and in the making of maps to aid in navigation and exploration. The idea of coordinates was used by ancient Egyptian surveyors in laying out towns, earthly and heavenly positions were located by something akin to latitude and longitude at least by 200 BC, and the map projection of a spherical earth into latitude and longitude by Claudius Ptolemy [c.85–c. 165] in Alexandria would serve as reference standards until the 14th century.

Among the earliest graphical depictions of quantitative information is an anonymous 10th century multiple time-series graph of the changing position of the seven most prominent heavenly bodies over space and time (Figure 2), described by Funkhouser (1936) and reproduced in Tufte (1983, p. 28). The vertical axis represents the inclination of the planetary orbits, the horizontal axis shows time, divided into thirty intervals. The sinusoidal variation, with different periods is notable, as is the use of a grid, suggesting both an implicit notion of a coordinate system, and something akin to graph paper, ideas that would not be fully developed until the 1600–1700s. The earliest graphical depictions of quantitative informationThe earliest graphical depictions of quantitative information.

In the 14th century, the idea of a plotting a theoretical function (as a proto bar graph), and the logical relation between tabulating values and plotting them appeared in a work by Nicole Oresme [1323–1382] Bishop of Liseus (Oresme, 1482, 1968), followed somewhat later by the idea of a theoretical graph of distance vs. speed by Nicolas of Cusa.

By the 16th century, techniques and instruments for precise observation and measurement of physical quantities, and geographic and celestial position were well-developed (for example, a “wall quadrant” constructed by Tycho Brahe [1546–1601], covering an entire wall in his observatory)  Particularly important were the development of triangulation and other methods to determine mapping locations accurately (Frisius, 1533, Tartaglia, 1556). As well, we see initial ideas for capturing images directly (the camera obscura, used by Reginer Gemma-Frisius in 1545 to record an eclipse of the sun), the recording of mathematical functions in tables (trigonometric tables by Georg Rheticus, 1550), and the first modern cartographic atlas (Teatrum Orbis Terrarum by Abraham Ortelius, 1570). These early steps comprise the beginnings of data visualization.

Source: Friendly, M. (2008). A brief history of data visualization. In Handbook of data visualization (pp. 15-56). Springer Berlin Heidelberg. http://www.datavis.ca/papers/hbook.pdf

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Example of urban mapping research project

Title: Mapping social diversity
Phase one involved demographic mapping which would inform the survey in phase two, and then in-depth interviews as part of Project B. Using census data (UK 2001, Poland 2002), the residential distribution of people in terms of demographic characteristics was mapped in two cities: Leeds (UK) and Warsaw (Poland). Variables were selected to represent the key social dimensions of difference: demographic, socio-economic, ethnic and disability. A standard cluster analysis using a k-means algorithm was implemented for each city separately -for ‘Community Areas’ in Leeds and ‘Urban Regions’ in Warsaw.Graph 1. Cluster classification of Community Areas in LeedsGraph 2. Cluster classification of Urban Regions in Warsaw

cluster maps

Typologies of communities (‘diversity clusters’) were produced using the census data. These clusters varied in terms of wider diversity patterns, but that were internally homogenous. So the aim of the analysis was to reduce the internal variability while increasing the external variability between the types of communities. The mapping exercise has shown that patterns of residential segregation and mix in the two cities are different. Consequently, in different neighbourhoods there exist different opportunities to have contact with people who are different in terms of age, ethnicity, religion/belief, disability and socio-economic status.A comprehensive description of the mapping excercise and more details on the clusters are available in this working paper: click here Survey on attitudes, prejudice and discrimination In phase two we used the diversity clusters to produce a stratified survey sample. A large scale survey was completed by a professional surveying company. The total sample size for the survey was approximately 1500 interviews in each city (3000 in total). The survey examined (a) whether spatial proximity generates ‘meaningful contact’ among diverse social groups, (b) whether it generates respect and understanding regarding people who are different, and (c) which places of encounter constitute sites that can facilitate improved forms of intergroup relations.We intend to explain the variation in attitudes revealed in the survey using both individual attributes and the independent influence of living in particular diversity clusters. The results of the survey will be reported later in 2012/2013.

 In phase two we used the diversity clusters to produce a stratified survey sample. A large scale survey was completed by a professional surveying company. The total sample size for the survey was approximately 1500 interviews in each city (3000 in total). The survey examined (a) whether spatial proximity generates ‘meaningful contact’ among diverse social groups, (b) whether it generates respect and understanding regarding people who are different, and (c) which places of encounter constitute sites that can facilitate improved forms of intergroup relations.

We intend to explain the variation in attitudes revealed in the survey using both individual attributes and the independent influence of living in particular diversity clusters. The results of the survey will be reported later in 2012/2013.

Source: http://livedifference.group.shef.ac.uk/?page_id=105

A Brief History of Data Visualization. Michael Friendly (2006)

It is common to think of statistical graphics and data visualization as relatively modern developments in statistics. In fact, the graphic representation of quantitative information has deep roots. These roots reach into the histories of the earliest map-making and visual depiction, and later into thematic cartography, statistics and statistical graphics, medicine, and other fields. Along the way, developments in technologies (printing, reproduction) mathematical theory and practice, and empirical observation and recording, enabled the wider use of graphics and new advances in form and content.

This chapter provides an overview of the intellectual history of data visualization from medieval to modern times, describing and illustrating some significant advances along the way. It is based on a project, called the Milestones Project, to collect, catalog and document way. It is based on a project, called the Milestones Project, to collect, catalog and document methods to analyze and understand this history, that I discuss under the rubric of “statistical historiography.

Source: Friendly, M. (2008). A brief history of data visualization. In Handbook of data visualization (pp. 15-56). Springer Berlin Heidelberg. http://www.datavis.ca/papers/hbook.pdf

Example of focus group-based research

Case study: Faith and secularism in contemporary Britain

Questions regarding the role of religion in public life remain contested, as exemplified by recent debates on issues such as same-sex marriage, gender equality, and faith schools. While some argue that a climate of ‘militant secularism’ now means that religious groups (including Christians) can be viewed as persecuted minorities, others suggest that religion still occupies a dominant role in the political sphere. There are also inequalities between different faith groups. For example, the Church of England has automatic access to the House of Lords, while other faith groups occupy more marginal positions in the political structure. Furthermore, individuals may suffer the additional pressures of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination. This case-study draws on focus group research with three faith communities in Leeds (Christian, Muslim, and Jewish) as well as with atheist groups to explore some of these issues in depth. By using various gatekeepers in different subsections of the religious communities, the research explores both inter-faith and intra-faith relations, while focusing primarily on tensions between atheist groups and various faith communities.

 

Source: http://livedifference.group.shef.ac.uk/?page_id=109

Example of mixed methods research

Case study : Pro-life and pro-choice groups; Spaces of conflict around a moral issue in the UK and Poland.

This project focuses on conflict between groups -religious and secular- on the topic of abortion policy.  Specifically, the tension between pro-life and pro-choice activism in contemporary British society. Debates around abortion may become a significant tension when reform of the abortion law is proposed or debated. However, on an everyday basis it may be a dormant tension that is not acknowledged, but is rather at the fringe of the public imagination. Yet in the last 18 months there has been increased media attention to these debates, including efforts by Conservative MP Nadine Dorries’ to ammend the Health and Social Care Bill, as well as new forms of activism such as “vigils” outside abortion clinics and web-based campaigning using social media. The UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has also recently voiced his personal opinion over cutting the current UK abortion limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks, resulting in a number of online responses. Often, the debate has centred on the question of when human life begins, and the implications of this for determining whether and when abortions can be allowed.

The project uses both primary and secondary research methods. The primary element includes firstly informal interviews with key informants, for example leaders of NGO’s and charities, community group leaders, and protest and activist groups and campaigners in different sites. Observational and participatory methods are also employed within the context of spaces of conflict involved with this issue; for example, looking at the way in which pro-life and pro-choice groups occupy or take up space, and the tactics involved in such campaigning. The secondary element involves investigating sources such as local media and the internet (as well as connections to national media) to assess the way in which the online sphere has facilitated these public, political and social debates.  In connection with this media analysis, the project is also interested in how the conflicting groups are represented in the media (and how they represent themselves through new media such as the internet) to address the spaces within which the tensions are occurring and the flow of information around these debates between specific groups and the general population. Finally, the project also investigates the wider ramifications of these tensions and will investigate how these tensions are being managed or contained and the nature and outcome of any attempts to resolve them. These themes are also being investigated in the context of Poland by Kasia Narkowicz. Finally, the historical context of this conflict is a vital element in understanding the contemporary situation. Therefore, the positioning of each group and their relationships to wider histories (for example in connection with feminist rights activists and movements) and the specific ways that intergroup tensions are represented as historically grounded are important elements in this project.

The analysis of the case study material will generate knowledge and understanding about the causes of group tensions, and will enable the research team to identify strategies for the prevention, management and resolution of such spatial and social tensions.

 

Source: http://livedifference.group.shef.ac.uk/?page_id=109

(In Spanish) Precarious contract: what is good for an advance economy might be conterproductive for an undeveloped one

“El hecho de que crezca el empleo parcial o temporal es muy positivo en economías eficientes con altos niveles de ocupación (Holanda), y de hecho los minijobs alemanes cumplen ese papel, pero es un auténtico drama en economías con bajas tasas de ocupación, ya que se resiente la productividad del país (en última instancia lo que mide la Contabilidad Nacional) y enmascara una realidad social implacable: la existencia de enormes bosas de subempleo y precariedad”.

Este párrafo, sacado de este impecable artículo sobre la realidad del mercado laboral en España, sugiere una idea que para mi es central en toda política de desarrollo. Lo que es bueno para una economía avanzada puede ser contraproducente para economías no avanzadas. En términos generales, por muy positivas que puedan ser vistas ciertas innovaciones, es posible que determinadas comunidades o países no se encuentren en disposición de integrarlas.