Not too long ago I was able to attend a demo of the data visualization toolkit Weave.  The person giving the demo was Georges Grinstein, one of the tool’s creators.  Georges hails from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

He showed a really amazing demo of foreclosure data from Lowell, MA.  For those of you who aren’t from Massachusetts, Lowell was one of America’s first industrial cities; massive textile mills once dominated the town.  The mill buildings are there — but the kind of jobs they once provided are long gone.  I have a lot of affection for Lowell because my grandmother lived there and my mother was raised there; my dad graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell at the age of 40 with a degree in computer science.

But enough about me!  Let’s get back to dataviz:

So first off, check out this link:

Lowell Foreclosure Demo

Give it awhile to load.  I also recommend loading it in either Firefox or Chrome.

Run your mouse over anything.  Anything at all.  Everything here is highly interactive; you can drill down on almost anything.  That’s pretty exciting all by itself, but now take a look at the menus in the upper right.

It’s not just interactive; it’s generative.  You can remix this, create your own visualizations, change what the dashboard looks like and what it displays, add your own data!

When I think about teaching beginners data visualization, one of the primary questions I ask myself is:  What am I teaching students that they can’t do easier and faster in Excel or Powerpoint?  What new vista am I helping them to see?

To me, one of the primary ways to depart from the “Excel box” is interactivity, but also generativity.  That’s why this is exciting.   🙂

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