Critique: data visualization

Gun graffiti. Source: Robert Cudmore, flickr.

Slate and the Trace got together and made an interactive map pinpointing the majority of shootings in the United States using data from the Gun Violence Archive. The map began with the 30,215 gun crimes and accidents that occurred on Dec. 5, 2014, to Dec. 5, 2015, and it’s creators continually update it. Data was last added on June 13, 2016.

I like how this map takes you straight to your home and alerts you to any shootings in your area over the last year and a half. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any incidents of people firing a gun in non-mass shootings in order to check the map’s accuracy.

I like how transparent the authors are that this map is not an accurate visualization of all shootings in the United States. In the article they explain how gun violence in suicides is not cataloged in the Gun Violence Archive because the archive does not regularly find these events in news reports or they’re not announced at the time of the event by police departments.

The interface is easy to use and you can find events by entering in an address or zooming in and out of a location. It also helps break down types of events up with color-coded pins for nonfatal and  fatal shootings, accidents, self-defense, and officer-involved shootings. It groups shootings at specific locations and darkens the color of the dot depending on the amount of events.

For each pin on the map there is a short summary about the event, including information on who shot the gun, who was shot, and what type of gun the shooter used. The Gun Violence Archive also added links to the original coverage of the event for viewers to find out what happened.

Overall, I like this map, but I wish it was cleaner. The dots are bulky and I think a sleeker presentation would be more visually pleasing. I also think a more cohesive flow of color intensities between the dots would show the number of shootings in an area better than hopping from green to the orange spectrum.

Being new to Boulder this map shocked me. I have a hard time believing there haven’t been any shootings in the area in the last year, because there have been three incidents that I know of since August 2016.


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