Information visualization, when everything gets analyzed : the example of the French presidential election

Posted on April 30, 2007. Filed under: English, Tagcloud |

You can not escape it if you are a media consumer : we are in France in the last run to elect our future president. An election, especially a major one, is a fantastic opportunity to witness the advance in visualization techniques. I am going to try to list the ones I found most powerful and innovative :Nicolas Sarkozy's and Segolene Royal's word cloud 

  • Tagclouds : a very innovative technique that appeared in conjunction with the development of folksonomics (see Thomas Vander Wal's blog for more info), I first noticed it in the French politics arena last summer in some French newspapers (see a more recent article in Le Monde). The articles displayed tagclouds authored by French linguist Jean Véronis who analyzed the words used by the candidates in their public speeches (see his blog entry). A nice open source tool for generating such tagclouds is the very good TagCrowd ;
  • Network maps : a now very common display technique (see VisualComplexity's website for good examples), probably the best example I have seen so far in the politics arena is the blogosphere's mapping of the socialist candidate Segolene Royal (see the Segoland map). Such mapping can be done with the very good tool TouchGraph, also used as a plug-in for FaceBook social networking site (see the Interactive Friend Thing tool in the developpers' tool directory), or more automatically using IP addresses in a Google Analytics report (the so-called Geo Map Overlay) ;
  • Cartograms : a complete discovery to me, in a recent article by French newspaper Libération (here, but not anymore available for free), they were authored by French cartograph Dominique Andrieu (see his webpage with map animations). They belong to the class of anamorphosis, the map being distorted by the weight of the cities' population. They give an immediate view / understanding of where the voters from a given party are from (here the periphery of the cities). The script (called ArcScript) is available from ESRI website ;

All those techniques try to give meaning to an ocean of data, to extract the hidden truth behind words and numbers, most of the time in order to facilitate decision (choosing a political strategy, or a candidate to vote for). But those are only 3 examples out of so many different approaches, most of which rely on algorithms (topological, …), and choosing the best one for a specific purpose might be the type of skill large companies might be looking for in their data-mining, geomarketing or BI departments !!

Update : see the very good blog network visualization engine on on a visualization technology from RTGI and Exalead's crawler / search engine


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One Response to “Information visualization, when everything gets analyzed : the example of the French presidential election”

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[…] Tagcloud: I have already presented it as it is one of my favorite knowledge design techniques, because I think it is both simple and has great potential for KM. Originally designed to display keywords associated to a text by the author and readers, but also experimentally used to synthesize, or present key arguments in a text (see the analysis of French candidates political speaches by French linguist Jean Veronis). You can read more at Peter Vander Wal's Infocloud: he is the one who coined the term "folksonomy"). A free tool to create tagclouds is TagCrowd. Below is an example taken from Amazon's new Inside This Book concordance analysis feature, available on books that are part of the Search Inside the Book program. […]

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