Visualisation is the new vogue in economics – and I think it’s official. I’ve been going on about Hans Rosling, Gapminder and Edward Tufte in the past, and now Rosling’s even been named Foreign Policy’s #96 top global thinker. Going by the top ten, that might not be a very wonderful list to be on, although it has a big chunk of economists in general. But I digress.
Visualisation is the new ‘cool’ thing to do in economics. The the Guardian runs a big data storage and visualisation site, to which David McCandless, of the excellent Information is Beautiful Blog contributes and writes for.
So where does all this visualisation lead? Well… for the moment it is a lot of fun and data can be revealing. That said, it needs to be combined with insight and planning before it will be much use to the day-to-day economist I reckon. Davind McCandless’ new book The Visual Miscallaneum (which I got today) goes a long way to inspire our use of graphics. Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen books on Presentation and Design are good for helping us think about how to present (the first more so than the second I think). But the reality is that for the moment journals print graphs in black and white, with a bare minimum of design scope. And lets be honest, visualising the supply lines and bottlenecks in the confused and complicated Haitian (and similar) aid operations would probably be the most beneficial of all data visualisations – but that’s not being done, not yet at least.