More selected projects

Democracy and Human Rights: a Data Love Story by James Quinn.

Democracy and human rights are two notions easily taken for granted. Here is why we shouldn’t. 

Democracy and human rights are imagined structures who exist nowhere beyond the collective psyche of humans. It’s nothing short of miraculous that systems like these, who lack any objective reality, hold such profound and transformative sway over the material world in which we live. Imagine reality without them for a moment. Such a place is by no means impossible.

But these concepts appear increasingly vulnerable in a world consisting of democracy-hacking troll bots, where surveillance capitalism threatens fundamental human rights such as privacy. And these are only two examples of the perils democracy and human rights currently face.

It may seem obvious, but I believe we should never forget how precious they are.

My project casts democracy and human rights as two protagonists. Drawing from data provided by Our World in Data, it aims to tell the love story of their CORRELATionship over the last fifty years. 

Love stories are immortal, but rarely unpredictable. And so it is with this one. Where one country flourishes with high democracy scores, we mostly see corresponding high human rights protection scores too. 

The opposite correlation is also true for those countries leaning further towards autocracy. 

I selected the ten countries with the highest human rights protection scores, and ten with the lowest, during the period between 2000 and 2017 - excluding nations with populations of less than a million.

I then used Processing to create a heat map and graph-shuffling function, and built them into a sketch that visualises data from a csv file. This project allows users to hover their cursor over the heat map to trace the story of each country’s changing human rights score, and click on the shuffling graphs to witness a country’s correlating democracy score, between 1970 and 2017. 

Human rights protection scores range from 3.8 to around 5.4 (the higher the better), while each country’s political regime score ranges from from -10 (full autocracy) to 10 (full democracy). 

My humble hope is that anyone using this program comes away reminded of how inextricably linked these two imagined systems, these two lovers, are. Perhaps it may also provoke contemplation of the fragility and importance of democracy and human rights, and encourage audiences to contribute towards their protection in future. I did say it was a humble hope.



//Data provided by: Max Roser (2020) - "Democracy". Published online at Retrieved from: '' [Online Resource]
//Code inspired by: UN Human Development Index Heat Map by Jeff Bennett.