This week in the Processing book, I learned all about trees and hierarchies. There’s a lot of potential here for allowing the user to delve deeper into interactives by providing multiple layers. This is a very cool example of how programming helps support my theory of journalism — the deeper the information you offer, the more the user has to explore. You’re conveying knowledge, and if you’re holding interest, you’re keeping eyeballs on the site. But treemapping is most valuable as a reporting tool, I think, making structured data out of unstructured text.
This example project is a static map of Gov. Quinn’s State of the State address. The bigger the square containing the word, the more times it appeared. I told the program not to include “the,” “an,” “a”, or “of”, because then it’s just a map of large squares of articles. But the more articles you tell it to delete, the more you find more of them. Note to self: Make a list of all articles to exclude from this sort of thing in the future.
I thought it was interesting how few times the word “state” actually came up in the speech. It’s important to remember that even when we see words contained within small boxes, they are still fairly significant. The insignificantly small words are those contained in boxes that are too small to contain letters.
It would be an even better project if you could click on the small boxes to zoom in, in the style of that fabulous NY Times budget interactive from a little while back.
I also made a dynamic treemap that details the structure of a folder on your file system. The dynamic project is of course more interesting, but the way it works, it depends on being loaded on your computer, so I’m holding off from posting it online.