adelynlee

Nationwide Air Pollution, an Interactive Graphic

In Uncategorized on November 12, 2011 at 11:10 pm

NPR created an interactive map graphic detailing the affects of air pollution across the continental United States.

Upon first looking at the graphic, I wasn’t sure where to begin. It seemed like a good choice of information to present visually, but there is no real direction to force the eye to begin and end in specific places. From an interactive standpoint, this could be a good thing. It allows the user to customize the experience of the graphic perhaps searching regions that are of meaningful to them like where they live or their hometown.

I chose to begin by reading the text at the bottom and learning more about the scope of the graphic. I liked that there was an external link to the methodology of the research. This made the information more credible and placed it in context for me.

As a whole I think the graphic is visually appealing. The dot distribution technique helps the reader to see which areas are the most polluted (mainly cities) but the cross-country visual is exceedingly helpful.

Navigating the map with a specific place in mind is handy and informative. I typed in the zip code where I live and found a map of the surrounding area with dots displaying the major culprits of pollution.

However, once I saw the map I was not entirely sure what I was looking at. I clicked on the dots, which were helpfully color coded as a measure of severity and learned a little bit about the companies that they were representing. A click on a dot in my area yielded this box:

From this I could follow the link to gain more information. I like that NPR chose to include a number of external links as it is always good to give users as many content options as possible. I was, however, still confused about the condition of air quality and pollution in my area. Despite the catalog of information I did not walk away from the area search with a definite conclusion.

If you zoom back out and look at the whole country, it becomes even more difficult to catalog any specific information. The concentration of dots is the most helpful. In this way, it almost might have been better as a static graphic because the search and click-ability does not provide that different of a perspective.

It wasn’t until I noticed the series of multimedia items that accompanied the graphic that I began to realize its value. Upon clicking on Poisoned Places I found this story.

The graphic is part of a series that NPR did investigating air quality complete with a number of photographs, audio stories and text stories.

When coupled with this other information, the graphic becomes very helpful to contextualize the other stories.

I would recommend this package of information to a friend looking to learn more about air pollution, but probably not just the graphic as a stand alone. It is a beautiful graphic and I like the way that the bar at the top reminds you of its origin and keeps the focus on NPR. However, I think that it is the external stories and information that allow the interactive graphic to be successful.

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  1. Great article. Well written especially the conclusion

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