As I read back over my initial project proposal, I have accomplished my main goal of creating a 3D data visualisation on the web, which is good. The data I first wanted to visualise was to do with the environment and ecology. I succeeded in this, by visualising pollution and emissions data on a global level. I always went over and above this, by being able to visualise even more meaningful data, such as rent indexes, safety as well as economic indicators. Technically I achieved most of my goals. I got to grips with three.js and the camera libraries it had to offer, rendered the globe, added a nice glow texture as well as successfully implementing all the data handling and steps needed to go from numbers to lines in 3D space. I did not include one technical proposal, which was to have additional heads-up display style graphs to back up the globe. I feel that as I progressed with the project, my focus shifted onto making the globe look as striking as possible, and ensuring user interaction was sleek. More and more throughout the course of development did I think that graphs would actually be quite a boring, dated way to look at data. I loved the idea of a 3D intractable, changing graphic of the world could be used, rather than basic lines. The idea of visualising location based data needs to have a solid context. The user experience and overall knowledge gained by looking at and interacting with the 3D globe is much more advanced and interesting than seeing data on a chart.
I did not manage to have functionality to visualise historic data sets, where the user could see data from a number of years. This is one major failing in the project. I simply ran out of time to do this. I could have achieved this, it would have just taken more time to format all the data correctly. This would allow the user to be able to gain even more insight into the current data set, why is it like this now? what changes have occurred in the past? are questions that come to mind when i use the final version.
I wanted by data visualisation to be able to appeal to people who live in cities. A user in New York City should be able to see data for their city and be able to compare it other cities on a global level. I have achieved this. A young person in Jakarta can use the visualisation to learn more about their city in terms of global measures, as well as get insight into global trends. This is also applicable to an older user in Vancouver. I’m very proud of achieving a user based aim, as this project’s worth hinges on the fluidity of the user experience achieved by a considered, minimalistic design approach.
I have learnt that data sets with brilliant meaning and worth are hard to find and the best way to acquire these is to collect them yourself. Numbeo was a brilliant discovery, and potentially the best data sets I have ever seen. I did feel let down by the government API’s and world bank, as their data sets were very very lacking, choosing to focus on strange economic indexes rather than information that is truly useful to it’s citizens. Of course it’s up for debate as to why a government would do this anyway. I feel that I had underestimated this aspect of the project and it did take me quite some time to find relevant data, and once I found it, the formatting and transforming did take quite some time and work-around to get it fully working.
I feel that my data visualisation is quite fair. I am not massaging any numbers, nor do I have any sort of agenda at play. The only editing I did was to remove one or two data values that massively peaked above the rest. The reason being that this would totally ruin the scaling of all other data spiked due it being, perhaps falsely, very high. I put a focus on this in my original proposal and presentation of ideas. It’s key that the visualisation gives true insight and is not falsified.
I could develop this project much further with more time and resources. Numbeo is all user-supplied data. I feel that it would be incredible to be able to collect data en-masse, and get users to give me data and then be able to visualise an ever growing and changing data set. I also the type of data that could be collected could be very diverse, from traditional economic and geographic data, to zeitgeist data such as the 2013 floods in the UK, and mapping this against short term economic impacts. I could develop the graphics further, to have more sophisticated interaction in terms of the camera control, as well as using more high res images to texture the globe, or perhaps opting for a flatter texture. This could allow for focus on single countries/ continents as well as just the whole world.
When considering my project in the early development stages, I really loved the idea of treating the browser as a simple canvas, which the user can interact with, and as I progressed through the project I came to realise this even further. This whole project has taught me a great deal. Not only about the ins and outs of jquery syntax and data structures, but about the sort of computing I enjoy. Projects that can be easily accessed by anyone on earth, and educate on very issues. To achieve through intuitive, visually striking graphics is extremely satisfying indeed. I was also keen to learn about ‘big data’ and its technical make up, as it a theme that is swiftly entering mainstream digital culture. My ideas of graphics, web applications and big data sets have been totally reimagined. This has been my largest, most intricate project to date and I’m very happy with the end result, and everything that it took to get there.
Additional Information and Resources used.
Orbit Controls Camera Library, slightly amended camera max/min zoom
Planet Pixel Emporium, Earth texture used.
Threex.planets, learnt how to create a globe mesh
WebGL Globe, understood how to convert lat/lng to 3d vector.