Interactive Data Visualisation / Map of London29 April 2010
Posted by : Gareth Shapiro
A recent trend within the UK government is one of providing access to the data sets they hold to the public. It appears to me at least that the thinking behind this is that transparency is promoted, the public may well come up with ways of using the data that are useful to everyone, and after all the public has paid for the creation of these data sets and so it seems correct that they should have access to it.
Not too long ago I attended a meeting at London's amazing city hall which focused on the Greater London Authority's contribution to this movement, The London Datastore. For someone like myself who develops compelling rich interactive digital media for a living it was obvious that here is a rich source of potential to tell a story using this data and Flash / Flex.
This Flash content requires you to have the Flash Player and to visit my blog.
More Than Meets The Eye
In reaction to so many data visualisations built with Flex or Flash that are crowded and claustrophobic a goal in my work is to develop interfaces that appear deceptively simple at first but which reveal information as you interact with them. This of course not only improves the aesthetics but makes everything easier to use and requires less explanation. My intention is that it is immediately obvious how to use the map and perhaps the only detail that would require interacting with it to discover is that the Boroughs can be interacted with.
Web Technology and Data Sets
This piece has been created using Flex and I have experimented with a Framework called RobotLegs for the first time, which was a very satisfying experience. The data needed to be normalised, worked into a format that most databases use, and a goal of the design of the code was that it would be easy to get use the map with any data set arranged in this way. I also experimented with using Google Docs as a data source which worked well although I have not implemented some of the features which react when the data does not arrive, or is late in arriving, yet and so opted for old fashioned XML files for this version.
A little rough around the edges
I feel it needs a little bit more polish and there are a few bugs. I would be very interested in, and grateful for, any comments that people have about their experience and how it may be improved.