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Posts: 167
Reply with quote  #1 
I found this rather absurd display (http://usdebt.kleptocracy.us/) and began to wonder how to do it over with good DV principles. 

The real comparison at the bottom  (scroll down several pages) is 100 million with 114.5 trillion (and various values in between).  The 1,145,000 factor between the two values is just too big to show graphically.  Logarithms are not much help, do not show the impact and are not generallly understood.  One could make a table of the numbers, but that doesn't seem to make the impact that actually is in the numbers either.  

Ideas welcomed!

Bill Droogendyk

Posts: 200
Reply with quote  #2 
I don't think there is a lot of point to showing these comparisons in a traditional data visualization.
The whole point of what you call an absurd display is to show the absurd values involved.

Comparing 114.5 trillion to 100 million in a graph, where the 100 million represents no actual measure would be a useless display.

To make a chart with useful visual comparisons you will first need to find actual meaningful comparisons to make...
And then establish your method of visualization from there.


Posts: 853
Reply with quote  #3 
Stacking $100 bills in this manner doesn't work, because we don't think of money in these terms (e.g., bill thickness and area). What often works in cases like this is to come up with a large dollar amount that people can wrap their heads around and then point out how many times greater the huge amount is. This is difficult, if not impossible, however, when dealing with amounts of this size. At best, we can make an amount of this size slightly more understandable than it is. For example, $114.5 trillion is roughly 30 times total government spending (federal, state, and local) in 2011. Even though annual government spending of $3.8 trillion is itself too large for most of us to fathom, it does help to know that the debt is equal to 30 years worth of total government spending.

Stephen Few
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