In the beginning, I had to decide which part of the assignment to do. Initially, it was between the data visualization, and the video critique. After a short amount of time, I had pretty much decided to do the data visualisation. The only thing left to do was decide on the data set, and get to work.
I threw around a few ideas for the data, including my bank transaction history, as well as sourcing data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Eventually, I decided to go with the ABS statistics from the last census. Specifically dealing with Canberra and the population of each suburb.
The next step is HOW do I do this visualization? There are endless ways to deal with it, ranging from a really basic MSPaint effort, Photoshop, or using something like Excel or Google Charts. Then I remembered hearing about Processing in class. I had heard of it before as a matter of fact, but had never done anything with it, so I thought it would be interesting to give it a try.
After a while of playing around, I managed to come up with this. You will need Java enabled to view it. If you click on the screen, it will draw a red dot. It was a quick mock up of what I was thinking of doing for the assignment, but in the end, the assignment took a slightly different route.
In order to put the assignment online, I was going to have to host it somewhere, so off to Google to find free web server to host it.After a bit of comparing, I came across host-ed. There are so many different ones out there, but host-ed looked ok, so I signed up.
I found it a rather interesting process working out the free hosting site I used to host the files. I’m sure there are easier ones out there, but after a few minutes, I had it worked out, and had the mock-up online to test if it was going to work online. It worked fine, so it was pretty much decided, Processing was going to be my Visualization engine.
Fairly quickly, the project evolved from the map based visualization in the mock-up above, to a layout similar to the New York Times Olympic Medals Count.
The Ranking view is most similar to my project really. I was going to implement something similar to the year slider, but I could not find the information for other years on the Australian Bureau of Statistics site.
I have already mentioned the Australian Bureau of Statistics in this blog. The ABS was my source of data for the assignment. I chose the ABS due to the open nature of the data, requiring citing the ABS as the source, as laid out by this page.
Programming in Processing was fairly straight forward. Having some experience with java made things a easier, as Processing is really an extension of java, which takes care of a lot of things for you.
This doesn’t mean the programming was easy however. There were a few sticky moments for me, one being sorting the list of suburbs. I managed to get the sort by population to work first, using a Bubble Sort algorithm. I understand a Bubble Sort is not very efficient, but when dealing with a small number items, as I was, it was more then sufficient.
When it came to sorting by Alphabet, I ran into the issue of not being able to use less then (<) to do the comparison on a string. Instead I had to do a little more research, and came across a handy way java has of sorting objects, by creating a class that tells Java’s Array.sort() how to deal with your own objects. This made sorting the array of objects even easier. I contemplated changing my sort by population to use Java’s Array.sort(), but chose to leave it, as I could use the time to work on other areas of the project.
In conclusion, I enjoyed the experience of using Processing in making visualizations, and look forward investigating more of its possibilities. The art of data visualization is a large one, and while this assignment has taught me a lot, there is still much to learn out there, and I look forward to learning it.
You can find the link to my assignment HERE