David Talbot

A View from David Talbot

Trove of Bridge Data

For the public and journalists, a data-visualization website tells a vivid bridge story.

  • August 15, 2007

Want to know how healthy your state’s bridges are? Within days of the Minneapolis bridge collapse, journalists and members of the public discovered that they had a new source of in-depth information. Rather than having to sift through government websites or write freedom-of-information requests–then figure out how to make sense of national data–they turned to a Wikipedia-like source of ready-made data visualizations called Many Eyes, launched in January by IBM’s Visual Communication Lab, based in Cambridge, MA. (See “Sharing Data Visualization.”) Many Eyes isn’t the first or most elaborate data-visualization technology out there, but it’s the first to serve as a public platform for visualization creation, sharing, and critiquing. Helpfully, users posted this state-by-state list of deficient bridges, a visualization of their structural status, and even a visualization of the bridge types most prevalent in the various states. Data sources are provided as a way to confirm accuracy. A tutorial on how to build Many Eyes visualizations can be found here.

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