The Lybbaverse / data-visualization  

The cartography of health: making an annual report that maps ‘healthy communities’

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To showcase the progress The California Endowment (TCE) has made in the last year with regards to its many initiatives, Lybba designed an interactive Annual Report in close collaboration with TCE and our filmmaking partner, Wondros.

The report combines numerical data and hard facts with narrative storytelling in the form of short films that allow visitors to explore TCE's work in neighborhoods, schools, and prevention. A playful, interactive map composed of simple shapes, reminiscent of paper cut-outs, loosely represents one of TCE's 14 communities, which are part of a 10-year comprehensive initiative—Building Healthy Communities.

The map invites visitors to explore each of the three big campaigns—Schools, Neighborhoods, and Prevention—as well as the primary drivers behind each of the campaigns. Layers of information unfold as visitors discover stories from children, adults, partners, and community leaders who are all part of the journey to better health.

TCE is a private, statewide foundation dedicated to expanding access to affordable healthcare in low-income neighborhoods and improving the overall health of all Californians. Their primary message—Health Happens Here—drives the work they do in communities across California. Health happens in schools, neighborhoods, and with prevention.

Within each of these three areas, TCE is changing the way people think about health: from helping thousands of uninsured children and adults find affordable healthcare coverage to building a micro-enterprise fund to support youth entrepreneurs. 

We’ve been shortlisted for an Information Is Beautiful Award

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We're delighted to announce that Lybba's design for an Interactive Tax Tool  for ONE has been shortlisted for an Informational Is Beautiful Award in the category of interactive visualization. Vote for us here.

"Information visualization is hot," according to Information Is Beautiful. (No doubt.) So they decided to create the first global awards to celebrate the form and the field. The call went out for an "amazing visualization, killer infographic or vorsprung interactive," and we answered it in hopes of winning "a mega-cash prize and a place in the dataviz hall of fame."

The interactive tool we designed shows where individual tax dollars go, in eight categories – national defense, social security, health, unemployment, Medicare, interest on U.S. debt, foreign assistance, and other. According to ONE, it successfully "reveals how only a small fraction of the U.S. budget has already drastically improved the lives of the poorest people on the planet." Read more here.

A selection of entries were shortlisted for each of six categories: data visualization, infographic/information design, interactive visualization, data journalism, motion infographic, and dataviz tool or website. From those, the top three will win awards. In sum, $30,000 will be bestowed upon the final winners to be announced at the Awards event on September 27 in London.

Those who will determine our fate are the distinguished judges Brian Eno; Paola Antonelli, senior curator of the Museum of Modern Art; Simon Rogers, editor at the Guardian; Maria Popova, cultural curator, writer, and blogger; Aziz Kami, Kantar creative director; David McCandliss, author, journalist, and information designer; and the "infoviz community". Wish us luck.

The bountiful year: a visual guide to seasonal produce

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The Bountiful Year: A Visual Guide To Seasonal Produce

Reblogged from Visual News.

Every kind of produce tastes better at the height of its season. Tomatoes are juicier, strawberries are sweeter, and pretty much any other fruit, vegetable, or herb is better when eaten during its natural harvest.

There’s no doubt hothouse production and the import of off-season produce from other countries have affected what you can find “in-season.” In some stores, it can be easy to forget that there are seasons and harvest cycles that make certain fruits or vegetables unavailable for stretches of time.

A trip to your local farmers market can give you a good idea of what to eat now, but this graphic provides a handy reference for when is the best time to eat what. So what’s good this month? Fresh peas, rhubarb, cherries, and apricots are great this time of year. But don’t just take our word for it; taste for yourself.

Lybba and ONE calculate a world of good

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March Madness? How about tax madness? Ah, tax season. Whether it’s money you owe, or a refund coming your way, I’m sure you know how much it is. But if you’re like most us of, you likely don’t know where your tax dollars actually go. Think about it. Do you know how your tax dollars are spent? Don’t be discouraged, neither did I. There’s so much talk in the news about social security, Medicare, and foreign assistance spending. It got us at ONE wondering how much we contribute to each. Well, thankfully we’ve now got a simple way for you to find out.

Today, we’re launching our new Interactive Tax Tool that shows you where your tax dollars go. Just enter your income and you’ll see your tax money break down into eight categories – national defense, social security, health, unemployment, Medicare, interest on U.S. debt, foreign assistance and other. It's not exact  it uses a 2011 single filer tax bracket without exemptions across the board  but you get the picture.

Most importantly, ONE's Tax Tool reveals how only a small fraction of the U.S. budget has already drastically improved the lives of the poorest people on the planet and how you personally have contributed to that effort. Together, Americans have helped put five million people on AIDS medication, halved malaria deaths in 11 African countries, and saved the lives of 15 million children.

Pretty amazing stuff.  Time and again, research has shown us that when people see how much good is being done for so little, their opinions on foreign assistance change.  As a matter of fact, there’s no single message that effectively changes more skeptics into believers than the living proof of what has been accomplished for so little. The problem is, not enough people have seen this proof. That’s where you come in.

I’m asking you to not only check out the Tax Tool yourself, but to share it with all your friends: http://act.one.org/go/tax_tool_lybbaAnd ask them to share it with their friends, too. Because the more people who see the proof that foreign aid is working, the more people will stand up to protect it.  And that all begins with you.

I joined ONE to use my marketing skills to help give a voice to the poorest people on the planet. Because the fight against extreme poverty needs more people on its side. Two years ago, before I joined ONE, I honestly didn’t know much about those half way around the world. I think of my job now as trying to reach the me of two years ago.

ONE is a nonpartisan advocacy and campaigning organization, founded by Bono and Bobby Shriver, that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. There are three million ONE members raising public awareness and working with political leaders, activists, and policy makers to support smart and effective programs that are saving lives, helping to put kids in school, and improving futures. Join us.

 

Five technology-mediated resolutions for the New Year

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This New Year's, make a resolution to get to know yourself better.

The turning of the new year presents us with a wonderful ritual wherein we can renew our hopes and dreams by bundling up and dismissing the frustrations and stymied goals of the past year and imagine that we can do better next year. New Year’s resolutions are great ways of identifying our long-term goals, but are difficult to live up to because our long-term goals, whether weight loss, lower energy bills, more exercise, better work habits, or a cleaner house, are often conflict with our short-term, habitual behavior.

Psychologists and economists have studied and debated this conflict between our higher goals and baser habits. Our difficulty appears to stem from the series of small, everyday decisions wherein short-term desires seem to be both more powerful and at odds with our long-term goals. A brain imaging study performed at Princeton University and reported in Science (Oct. 15, 2004) illustrates how the mind is made up of different competing parts, each of which operate on different principles. 

In people who chose long-term over short-term rewards, the regions of the brain scientists believe are tied to rational reasoning were more active. In choosing short-term rewards, the emotional system appeared dominant. Dostoevsky’s philosophy appears prescient; we live our lives in tension between the aims of our higher intellect and our emotional instincts. The Princeton researchers speculate that the emotional brain doesn't think about the future, thus the joy of eating that tasty donut to sate your hunger is not just reasonable, but in a world without long term consequences, rational.  

This suggests that we need to enlist our emotional brain as well as our rational one in our New Year's resolutions and if the emotional brain cannot reason about the future, then we need to find ways to bring future consequences into the present. The problem is that we retain a poor mental record of all the little decisions that added up to failures in our long-term goals.  And so we have two major problems: which little decisions have the largest impact on our goals, and how can we enlist our emotional brain in changing those decisions?

Fortunately there are a wide variety of technologies and disciplines emerging to help us gain greater awareness of what is happening during the day. The key? Engaging in a process called self-tracking. Self-tracking is simply a process of maintaining a record of happenings in our life over a period of time and looking for patterns in the data that help us gain a better understanding of how our habits effect the things we care about.

A movement of hobbyists calling themselves the Quantified Self have started to share and document the hows, whys, and “so what"s of self-tracking. Hobbyists get together in meet ups in cities all over the world. Individuals present about their use of technologies or processes that translate their everyday behavior into data they can glean meaning from. Gary Wolf, one of the co-founders of the movement, remarked that we have known for decades that numbers can lead to better behavior and performance in the professional sphere (except perhaps for day traders), and the time has come to use numbers and these well known techniques in the personal.

Let's explore some of the technologies available to help us with a wide variety of goals that often come up in the New Year.

  • "I want more/better sleep."  A number of devices are available on the market that track our sleep state and patterns by measuring our brain waves or physical motion at night.  Below you can see the dashboards from three companies, BodyMedia, FitBit, and MyZeo. These devices can help you track how much sleep you are actually getting, the quality of that sleep, how many times you awaken at night, and some, like the Zeo, even help you identify what factors in your life influence the quality of your sleep (e.g. I sleep better when I go to bed earlier, regardless of how long I sleep).

3 sleep tracking dashboards from FitBit, BodyMedia and MyZeo

  • "I would like to lose weight and become more active." A common New Year's goal is weight loss. The issues involved in losing and sustaining weight loss are complex and highly individual. However, devices like the WiThings scale, which automatically transmits your weigh-ins to a server via your home WiFi connection, make it easier to see what patterns in your life effect your weight loss. See two snapshots of my own WiThings dashboard (can you see the peaks at Thanksgiving and Christmas and the weight loss before hand when I was sick?).  Following is a different dashboard from the FitBit that records daily activity levels.

 

 

  • "I want to optimize my fitness/competitiveness." Sometimes our goals are more aggressive than general fitness or weight loss. There are a wide variety of exercise watches or other devices that track athletic events and performance via heart-rate, pedometer, altimeter, and/or GPS tracks. Third-party sites like Strava, FitnessKeeper, and MapMyRun are available that process these data and provide a wide variety of visualizations and comparisons to other athletes to help you gauge your own improvement or overall competitiveness. Here is an athlete dashboard on Strava with a list of recent rides and overall stats.

  • "I want to develop better work habits." One of my personal favorites is Rescuetime. This is a little application that resides on your computer and every few seconds looks at what window and document you are working on (e.g. Writing code, a paper, watching YouTube or reading the Times) and uploads these little slices of activity to their web service where you can look at a wide variety of aggregate information about how you spent your day, month or year online.  Each activity can be sorted into productive and non-productive behaviors and even into specific projects.  For example, I label time spent composing and reading e-mail as "highly unproductive" since I want to try to reduce the total amount of time I am distracted by e-mail.  Here is my productivity dashboard from last week:

  • "I want to lower my energy bills or carbon footprint." After some failed efforts by both Google and Microsoft, several small companies are creating products in support of individuals who want to reduce their energy use or optimize their carbon footprint. Two great companies are Wattvision and Energy Inc. who manufacture sensors that monitor your electricity meter or attach to your home's breaker box and provide near real-time information about electricity use. They then make this data available via web services and mobile apps so you can, for example, lower your hot water heater or raise your fridge temperature and see the cost savings over the next hour.

These are just a few of the many projects available to support our self-tracking efforts. Both hobby project and commercial products are extensively documented by the team at Quantified Self. This ecosystem of informative and increasingly simple techniques have wide ranging implications and applications to everything from health and healthcare to athletic performance, workplace efficiency, and even improving relationships.

So I recommend trying something different with your resolutions this year. Focus on process and not result. Become more aware of what you are doing and how your small decisions are influencing your larger goals. You may find that awareness alone is not enough to make changes and in future posts we will discuss the emerging theories, processes, and technologies for making and sustaining conscious changes in our behavior.

May you have a marvelous and self-aware 2012.