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Posts tagged Politics.

Japanese Political Posters

Check out this partial showcase of Japan's history of political dissent in poster form.

Pink Tentacle has posted an excellent collection of Japanese political posters from the last five decades of the 20th century. Here are a few of my favorites.

Poster for exhibit in support of Vietnamese women and children (Makoto Wada, 1968)
Poster for exhibit in support of Vietnamese women and children (Makoto Wada, 1968)
Anti-pollution poster (Kenji Ito, 1973)
Anti-pollution poster (Kenji Ito, 1973)
Hiroshima Appeals (Yusaku Kamekura, 1983)
Hiroshima Appeals (Yusaku Kamekura, 1983)
Goodbye whale (Mamoru Suzuki, 1994)
Goodbye whale (Mamoru Suzuki, 1994)

See more here.

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PaulJul 15, 2011

Patchwork Nation

This Election Day, it is good to be reminded that our political landscape is far more nuanced than the red/blue divide our media would lead us to believe exists.

The Patchwork Nation site uses infographics to describe 12 different community types: demographic trends that go beyond mere party affiliation.

Patchwork Nation map

I spent more than a few minutes looking at all of the cities I've lived in and checking in on how they are faring in the current recession.

I could use a bit more data that the site provides, actually. I like the articles that connect current events (like foreclosures and the election) to the community types, but there aren't enough of them. However, the site does a good job of supporting the premise of the book.

A hat tip goes to Jacqueline for the link.

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NickNov 2, 2010
Tagged with: Infoviz, Mapping, Politics

Two Monday Worries: March 8, 2010

Two Monday Worries starts your week off right, tracking troubling tales trending in design, advertising, and ethics.

1. Google is Making me Stupid

I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle...

The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author’s words but for the intellectual vibrations those words set off within our own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas.

Read the whole article here and an interesting follow-up here. (Thanks, Seamus.)

Detail of 'Google Monster' by Asaf Hanuka
Detail of Google Monster by Asaf Hanuka

2. Max Barry: The Lawnmower People

But [corporations] weren’t enough of a person, apparently, so now they have First Amendment rights. In particular, they have the right to spend as much money as they like on political advertising: airing ads in favor of anti-regulation candidates over pro-regulation ones, for example.

The Supreme Court has let them into homes: now the [corporations] will speak to us through TV, radio, internet, print, and tell us who to vote for. That might not seem like a problem. After all, you are a smart person. You’re probably not persuaded by advertising. The thing is, everyone thinks that, and advertising is an $600 billion industry. Someone, somewhere is getting $600 billion worth of persuasion.

Read the whole article here.

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PaulMar 8, 2010

Health Insurers Bribe Facebook Gamers to Oppose Reform Bill

Via The Business Insider: Health insurance industry trade groups opposed to President Obama's health care reform bill are paying Facebook users fake money -- called "virtual currency" -- to send letters to Congress protesting the bill.

Facebook users addicted to social games, and eager to accelerate their progress, often buy "virtual goods" -- such as a machine gun for "Mafia Wars" -- with "virtual currency".

One of the ways to acquire this currency is by accepting offers from third-parties, usually companies who agree to give the gamer virtual currency so long as that gamer agrees to try a product or service.

According to The Business Insider, an anti-reform group called "Get Health Reform Right" was recently caught paying gamers virtual currency for their support. Instead of asking the gamers to try a product, "Get Health Reform Right" requires gamers to take a survey, which, upon completion, automatically sends the following email to their Congressional Rep:

"I am concerned a new government plan could cause me to lose the employer coverage I have today. More government bureaucracy will only create more problems, not solve the ones we have."

While not apparently illegal, this practice is obviously ethically problematic.

A Screenshot of the 'Get Health Reform Right' Survey
A Screenshot of the "Get Health Reform Right" Survey


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PaulFeb 1, 2010

Four Design Links: November 5, 2009

Thursday brings a fresh batch of warm pumpkin-scented Four Design Links.

1. Lying Through Visualization?

Information Aesthetics: Lying through Visualization: AT&T Sues Verizon over Coverage Maps

An interesting bit of infoviz ethics here. AT&T is suing Verizon over a commercial which features a map comparing the two companies' 3G wireless coverage.

AT&T alleges that although the data may be accurate, the presentation is misleading. According to the complaint, although the map compares only 3G coverage (which Verizon has more of), the blank spacing in the map suggests that AT&T has no coverage of any kind in those areas.

I'm fairly certain legal action is the wrong play here. It only seems to validate Verizon's claims that AT&T is inferior. The map may be correct, but the message is not. AT&T has data coverage in those "blank" areas, just not 3G. AT&T should turn around and make an ad with a map comparing where iPhones work. Plenty of blank space for Verizon there.

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NickNov 5, 2009

The Soft Bulletin

As users of Twitter, how should we feel about the fact that the microblogging service conceded to a recent request from the US State Department?

As we all know by now, in the aftermath of Iran's June 12 presidential elections, Iranians have increasingly taken to the streets in protest of the election's hotly disputed results. We know this in large part due to the fact that many of those Iranians have been using Twitter to swap information and inform those of us here in the outside world about what's going on in Tehran.

This is no doubt a triumph for the company and even for the role of technology in democracy more broadly. Jon Williams, the BBC world news editor, is perhaps sentimental but certainly not entirely wrong in asserting that "the days when regimes can control the flow of information are over."

Photo from the recent Tehran protests
Photo from the recent Tehran protests, posted by Flickr user .faramarz.
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PaulJun 22, 2009

What is Isotype?

The International System Of TYpographic Picture Education is an absolutely fascinating case study in design ethics.

Isotype was developed by the Viennese social scientist and philosopher Otto Neurath. Neurath saw a virtually illiterate proletariat emancipating, stimulated by socialism. For their advancement, he knew, they would need knowledge of the world around them. This knowledge should, he thought, not take the form of (relatively opaque) written language, but should rather be directly illustrated in straightforward images.

Gerd Arntz was the designer tasked with making Isotype’s pictograms. In sum, Arntz designed some 4000 such signs, which symbolized data from industry, demographics, politics and economy.

A symbol from Isotype

The process of selecting the relevant symbols, creating the rules, and prescribing the interplay between Isotype and (say) German is a design task of absolutely epic proportions, which is to say nothing of the ideological component of the project. All told, I expect Isotype to prove incredibly compelling grist for thinking about design ethics, political ideology and design, and design communication.* It is in my estimation a rare find indeed.

* Another outspoken goal of Isotype was to overcome barriers of language and culture, and to be universally understood. The pictograms were systematically employed in combination with stylized maps and diagrams to produce extensive collections of visual statistics. Their system became a world-wide emulated example of what we now call infographics.
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PaulMar 17, 2009

Is Wordle good?

Wordle is beautiful and usable, but is that good enough?

Wordle is a popular visualization that creates "word clouds" from the frequency of words in a given text. Words which are used more frequently appear larger within the cloud. However, unlike a tag cloud, Wordle's organizational principles are more aesthetic than analytical. Instead of arranging words in linear blocks, the applet uses any available whitespace around and within words. The meaning of the results can be difficult to interpret, but the visuals are undeniably beautiful.

This raises a challenging question: "Is Wordle good?"

When I first started writing about Wordle, I was interested in using it on BlogLESS to learn something about our writing.

Wordle word cloud of BlogLESS, Feb. 2009

But the more I dug into the tool, the more I started to wonder what the word cloud actually represents. Jodi Dean examines this idea in her essay, Tag clouds and the decline of symbolic efficiency:

[H]ow can there be an ethics of the address if the words are not part of an address, if they are extracted from their position within speech acts to become artifacts and toys? (emphasis mine)

In other words (no pun intended), frequency doesn't necessarily have any meaning. Or perhaps, not the meaning we think it does. As a visualization, Wordle may not be telling the full story.

Wordle's creator Jonathan Feinberg understands this criticism, but considers the applet to be nothing more than a toy. According to the Many Eyes blog, it is "designed to give pleasure, not to provide reliable analytic insight". And yet, a magazine like Wired uses Wordle to examine political speeches. This is the conundrum.

It's not just a toy because the artist says it is-- not if the audience might think otherwise. Is a toy thermometer harmless when someone uses it to take a sick person's temperature? Can a toy masquerading as a tool really be so benign?

While I commend Feinberg for making visualizations easy to produce and good looking, I wonder if there isn't some ethical component missing? For a public that is generally uneducated about the meaning of data, can we truly say it up to them to interpret the pieces correctly-- that the designer or artist bears no responsibility?

I want to suggest (and don't I think this isn't the first time we've done so) that aesthetics and usability are not good enough. In addition, we ought to consider ethics in everything we make; morality as a component of quality. Good design must truly be good.

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NickFeb 17, 2009
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