Night of the Living Maps

by Andy Polaine on November 5, 2008

in General

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Apart from last night’s making of history it was a night of interactive maps gone wild.

The BBC’s virtual studio 3D environment was replete with sounds of steel shutters opening and closing as the graphics changed, which gave me flashbacks of The Day Today. Wired have a good selection of other overblown 3D madness. (Can’t believe Wired Gadgets Lab used the term ‘gee-whiz Tech’).

CNN (above) went for multi-touch action with John King zooming in and out of detail and pulling up man-on-the-street video clips. The strange, meta-media, thing here was that the cameras then zoomed into the clip playing on the multitouch screen rather than cutting directly to it. King would then get rid of a clip by tossing it off of the top of the screen. King was keen to show off – quote of the evening: “I want to show you a new feature of the map – let me hit Hispanics here…”

I couldn’t face watching CNN’s ‘Situation Room’ coverage long enough to see if it went wrong (I mean, come on, Situation Room? Pricks.).

Kottke has a gathered a selection of online election maps and it’s a good lesson in information design styles. NetLab’s Kazys Varnelis and Leah Meisterlin have written an in-depth piece on Adobe’s Think Tank site about this shift into intelligent maps and what it means for designers.

“The choice of what to show and how to show not only impacts appearance, it can reframe arguments.”

Of course, maps always have been about framing and re-framing.

The online U.S. Election 2008 map I found clearest and most insightful is from The New York Times.

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The Exit Polls Map is particularly good, especially when you set it to size the bars according to size of the electorate revealing just how much minority and female votes had a massive impact. Sliding through the years is enlightening too.

Naturally this trend has brought some good parody too – see Stephen Spielberg Presents John King and a Saturday Night Live skit.

[UPDATE: The Onion just posted How to Understand the Election Map]

But none of them beat Alan Partridge trying to explain the ’94 World Cup system on The Day Today:

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