There is not always a sync between knowledge/information and communication. A whole of a lot of knowledge is being produced with registered statistics stored in numbers, but the communication tools are often very bad or non existing. This is one of the areas I find so challenging within my field of visual communication. Thousands of interesting researches, essays and projects are being worked on but the results created often get hidden in reports on shelves in libraries or in thick proceedings documents that very few people have time to read through and no-one enjoys. The software Gapminder is an example of how it is possible to communicate knowledge (and maybe the most boring knowledge of all: statistics!) in a very interesting way. The program uses the classical scientific graph methodology (with x and y axis) that we are used to when looking at statistics. Each country is represented by a bubble in a size related to its population. The bubbles are animated over time and it is easy to compare statistics both within countries and between. The elements that control each axis are changeable to execute various factors. The actual designed graphics could be better but in comparison to presentations in the university sector they are beautiful! The program is developed by Hans Rosling, a professor of global health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute. Rosling asks why we aren´t using all this data that is available to be able to understand how societies are developing and changing? “We have the data, we have the design tools!” But we need open access to the data and the search tools to get it together and compare in different ways he says. In his work he focuses on dispelling common myths about the developing world and he wants to maintain how wrong it is to talk about “us” the first world and “them” the third world. To Rosling there is no “them”! To talk about Africa as one country is totally absurd. There is such a difference within Africa that it is impossible to talk about it as a whole and for the developed part of the world to use one and the same aid strategy. One of the very interesting facts Rosling talks a lot about is how family planning and economic development go hand in hand. And family planning is very connected to women´s rights and education. On the fantastic TED website there are two amazing presentations by Hans Rosling, important both to those interested in world and development affairs but also to those interested in visual communication. The earlier one is from 2006 called Debunking third-world myths with the best stats you’ve ever seen and the second from 2007 called New insights on poverty and life around the world On the Gapminder website it is also possible to see several Gapcasts Google has bought the Gapminder program but the Gapminder Foundation still maintains it. Hopefully that cooperation will strengthen the development of the program and possibilities to make data come alive. Here is an interactive test site where it is possible to play with the program, change the axis and select countries to look at.

January 12, 2008   Posted in: PONDERINGS