Compare/Contrast Land Usage

The United Steaks

This article about how US uses land is fascinating. They must be using some sort of data visualization software. Anyway, Bloomberg aggregates the amount of land used for various purposes, across the entire US, and then compares and contrasts it. But as a point of visualization, they show you if it were to all be concentrated in one spot, how big that spot would be.

For instance, if the top 100 land-owning families were to be adjacent, it would occupy a space the size of Florida. Another example: if all the urban areas in the entire country were to be consolidated, it would occupy a tiny bit of New England and rural housing is much, much larger; ranching cows occupies more land than anything else.

(It is not however saying that all of florida is privately owned, or that cows are only in the midwest, it is using states and regions to compare the sizes of land used.)

I suggest saving it for lunchtime. It’s not a long read, but I found myself spending a lot of time just thinking about what I learned, and comparing-contrasting things as they flitted through my mind.

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2 Responses to Compare/Contrast Land Usage

  1. My inner Edward Tufte is screaming incoherently in rage at that article. Pie charts, people, this is what a pie chart was made to display. Slicing up a pie chart and stuffing it into an irregular shape is just plain USA Today-grade chartjunk.

    For another example, they lay in ‘wildfires’, a temporal phenomenon, on top of a static division of ownership. This is literally comparing apples to hammers. They’re drunk on their fancy data visualization tools. Some of those displays are the DV equivalent of the Dawn-of-Pagemaker ransom note documents.

    Anyone who has ever has to present information should read at least Tufte’s first book “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information”

    The hardback version, so every time they do something like compare an apple to a hammer they can be satisfyingly smacked upside the head with it.

    Seriously, it remains the single best guide to communicating quantitative data in an easily understandable fashion. The other three books in the series are good, but the first one is the foundational text anyone in any field requiring communication of data should be familiar with.


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