Databases in the news

The New York Times has two interesting articles about online databases being used to track campaign financing and Iraq war casualties. The web has made it possible to access information like this with a depth not possible before.

The first item, pictured above, is a graphical and interactive map of how the presidential candidates are doing in the campaign fund-raising race. Click on a candidate's name in the list and the map is redrawn to show where their money support is coming from (the bigger the circle, the more money raised). You can also see who donated and how much they gave from individual zip codes. For instance, my zip code has no Clinton donors but several for Obama.

Turning data into a graphical format like this reminds me of the work of Hans Rosling (see a previous blog entry here) who mines U.N. data in a similar way. Rosling's work shows how our notions of the world are frequently wrong.

The second item is a story about how people are using databases and web sites to track military deaths in the Iraq war and honor the dead. There are links to the sites in the story. Several of the sites attempt to connect a photo and a story to each military death in Iraq and Afghanistan (New York Times stories are typically available free for only a week so look fast).

The use of these types of databases was a big topic at the Society of News Design's annual conference last summer. Offering access to databases like these allows readers to dig up information that is most interesting and relevant to them. The question is whether people will take the time to dig through these sites and whether they will be able to make sense of the data once they've found it.

Amazing stuff.

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