Three out of 310 million people, visualized

The Washington Post ran a very surprising infographic yesterday. See it here. Visual comparisons of different amounts are always an effective tool. I’ve seen dot density graphics (or however you may want to call them) representing large amounts, but I don’t think I’ve seen anyone trying to visualize 310 million individual shapes (the whole population of the United States).

The goal of the graphic is to challenge the reader to find the three people infected with Ebola in the country (two nurses that tended to Thomas Eric Duncan and were infected by him, and Duncan himself, killed by the virus). Here you can see a tiny portion. You’ll need a coffee, snacks and a robust finger to scroll through the entire thing.

Washington_Post Ebola

At first I found myself irritated by the endless scrolling and the inability to find the three red dots. I also didn’t think it was a good idea to establish a comparison without being able to visualize the whole dataset at once rather than parts of it as you scroll (I wonder what they did in print). But then I thought not finding the dots regardless of how much you scroll was precisely the point the Post is trying to make: to show Ebola in the U.S. is a non-issue. A good response to the hysterical media coverage we have seen so far. By the way, here is an article from ranking threats to Americans by actual threat rather than media hype (a highly un-scientific ranking, as they admit).

So now I kind of like the Post graphic! What do you think?



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