The Visualizations of Mass Collaboration

The Visualizations of Mass Collaboration

By September 16, 2014 Open Innovation No Comments

When confronted with a monolithic table of numbers and words, such as that which summarizes the 2014 National Day of Civic Hacking, the default response of many is either confusion or panic. It is a well-established truth that the human brain is not well equipped to glean meaning from patterns and trends when they are embedded in spreadsheet form. This makes perfect sense! Throughout our evolutionary history, man’s life has rarely been at the mercy of tabulation. What we are very adept at, however, is visual processing (and also dealing with one or two numbers at a time). That’s where the art of data visualisation comes in. Data visualisation is simply the process of condensing the meaning of a data set into an easy to digest visual representation. Thus we are able to exercise our better-developed visual intuition in order to capture the message behind the data.

SecondMuse has been fortunate to have been involved in some of the worlds largest mass collaborations over the past five years, starting with Random Hacks of Kindness, and including the Water Hackathon, International Space Apps Challenge and the National Day of Civic Hacking. In that time, we’ve collected some phenomenal data, albeit in spreadsheet form. It’s been my task during the course of the past two months to use this data, as well as some more detailed data from the National Day of Civic Hacking 2014, to produce visualisations that capture the events and their distribution as best as possible. To give you an idea of the scope of the data at hand, there have been 759 individual hackathon events, across 73 countries. In other words, these hackathons have occurred in ~38% of countries (no-one agrees on how many there are) in the world. The following is a selection of those visualizations that we’ve produced!

National Day of Civic Hacking 2014

National Day is the biggest gathering of civic hackers in the world. In 2014, thousands of people at 123 events around the world came together to create, hack and imagine their way to a better world. This is a map of all National Day 2014 locations. Events at the National Day of Civic Hacking 2014 grouped by state and then city. Size and color of each circle is dependent upon attendance and event type respectively.

View visualization: http://secondmuse.com/services/visualizations/circle-packing/

This is a a map of National Day 2014 event locations, with a Voronoi tessellation overlaid. A Voronoi tessellation is produced by a program (algorithm) that minimises the area of the “tiles” that enclose each location. As a result of this, the closest event location to a person in a given “tile” is the one event location enclosed by that “tile”. Additionally, each “tile” is coloured depending on the type of event that is enclosed by the “tile”. It’s possible to see where the highest concentration of National Day events is, as well as where they are more sparse!

View visualization: http://secondmuse.com/services/visualizations/voronoi/

This is a word cloud representing the responses of ~40 local event leads at National Day 2014 to the question “Sum up your event in three words”, collected as part of a follow-up survey. While there is a multitude of more technical/specific words, there is a strong common thread of positive words among the responses; it’s always heartening to see “fun” in such a big font. In my opinion this graphic really nicely captures the civic hacking spirit!

View visualization: http://secondmuse.com/services/visualizations/word-cloud/

Formally referred to as an Alluvial Diagram, this graph is a visual representation of how participants were distributed at National Day 2014 across multiple categories. The graph also visually links the number of participants sharing the same categories. Note: Locations with no thickness have no participant data.

View visualization: http://secondmuse.com/services/visualizations/nationalday2014-flow/

SecondMuse Hackathons: From RHoK to Present Day

This is a map of all SecondMuse hackathon locations. The colour of each marker indicates which event that location was a part of (e.g. Space Apps 2013). The map is really great at capturing how much reach global hackathons have, as well as how National Day 2013 /14 has brought large scale hackathons to areas in the US where they were historically absent.

View visualization: http://bit.ly/1u14ibo

This is a map of the SecondMuse Hackathon with a Delaunay triangulation applied. A Delaunay triangulation is just a way of connecting a bunch of points with triangles that looks good, and avoids skinny, weird-looking triangles. The corners of every triangle lie on some hackathon event location. While there is little information that can be gleaned from this map, it looks awesome. It’s possible to see the shape of countries and land masses, solely with hackathons as your guide!

View visualization: http://secondmuse.com/services/visualizations/hackathon-connections/

The above graphic shows the relative proportion of total events within a given country that occurred as part of a given hackathon. For example, if 50% of the events within Canada happened at hackathon A and 50% at hackathon B, then the bubbles for hackathons A & B will be the same size. Alternatively, if 70% happened at A, 15% at B and 15% at C, then the bubble for A will be the largest, with the bubbles for B&C being the same size. If you hover over the country name in the interactive version, the number of events at each hackathon will be shown. Because the graph shows hackathon prevalence over time, it’s possible to see how global hackathons have spread from areas such as the US, Kenya and India to other countries around the world over the past few years.

View visaulization: http://secondmuse.com/services/visualizations/neuro-plot/

Formally referred to as an Alluvial Diagram, this graph is a visual representation of how events that were a part of all SecondMuse hackathons were distributed across multiple categories. The graph also visually links the number of events sharing the same categories (i.e. City, Country etc).

View visualization: http://secondmuse.com/services/visualizations/mass-flow/

Sam Wilkinson

About Sam Wilkinson

Before joining SecondMuse, Sam worked at the NASA Open Innovation Program analysing data from the International Space Apps Challenge 2013, with a view to gaining insights into collaboration in the context of large-scale hackathons. He is passionate about conveying concepts and narratives through the art of data visualisation, and is a strong believer in making information as open and accessible as possible. Sam is currently pursuing an MPhys in Physics at the University of Oxford (Oriel College), in the UK. He can often be found outside.

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