This past IAP, I worked in the new data science group at Maersk Line, the biggest shipping company in the world. One of my coworkers found Shipmap.org, which lets you interact with GPS timeseries data for cargo ships in 2012.
I enjoyed this data representation because it conveys many complexities of global trade without overwhelming its audience: the general internet-using population. On my first glance, the site displayed an aesthetically pleasing bathymetric map that showed global ship movements. However, more aspects quickly began to show through. I zoomed in on choke points, such as the Egyptian Suez Canal, the Panama Canal, and even the area around Singapore. The busiest world ports glowed, which actually helped inform my forecasting work the next week. Even unrelated facts such as the Earth’s curvature show in the ship movement–look at the route from the Vancouver to East Asia. The toggles also allow you to view different cargo types, CO2 emmissions, etc., so I feel like I always learn something new when I visit.
Even though this visualization displays fairly raw data, it does a great job of entertaining and informing: what I perceive to be its two main goals. The map’s interactivity entertains users by letting them discover their own inferences, and the map provides a natural way to deeper explore these inferences. These personal conclusions result in a much higher-impact experience than simply seeing charts showing CO2 emissions, cargo flows, etc. The inferences bring the user into the data, personally connecting them to the data’s story.