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Inaugural Ceremony 2009 – Obama one People

“For President Obama’s 100th day in office, the MIT SENSEable City Lab has created visualizations of mobile phone call activity that characterize the inaugural crowd and answer the questions: Who was in Washington, D.C. for President Obama’s Inauguration Day?”
The team arond Carlo Ratti has not only recently visualized and analyzed mobile phone data. They have been experimenting with this data source for a while and produced number of interesting projects. There are the great visualizations for Rome that show mobile phone activities during the Madonna concert, done mainly by Jon Reades.
Reads is again involved with this project set up round Obma’s inauguration day back in January. This time the mobile phone call data from around the ceremony’s location is analyzed. It is analyzed regarding amount of activity and destination of the call, either world wide or per american state. THe time period they are looking at is the full week in which the inauguration took place.

Isn’t it amazing what can be done with a mobile phone call data set? Yes and No. Yes, because there is a great deal of information hidden in the data and results of who is watching and presumably reporting this back home is interesting compared to the results of the election. Questions like did states who voted for Obama attend the ceremony or did mainly states that voted for McCain follow he ceremony live, are of interest. But it has o be said, that the visualizations from the clip are very difficult to understand. There is probably too much being communicated at the same time. The two lines of information along the left hand side and the bottom together with the animation in the centre are confusing. Earlier visualz comming out of the lab where using a different graphic and I fond where simpler to understand, such as the New York Talk exchange or the Puls of the Planet.

Image from senseable.mit.edu/obama – click for beter resolution version)

The No for the second part of the answer probably goes for “if we can do it, we might not wana do it” or not everything we can do, we actually want to do. The MIT shows here that it is possible to map and animate this kind of information. Potentially even in real time, although they are taking 100 days to do it (this is most like a problem with the mobile phone companies, but nevertheless it might be possible to generate instant visualz of this kind of data. THe problem lies with the interpretation of it. This is not as instant as the visual. It takes time to understand the content and to define a reasonable bit to compare it to. As shown in this example the pro Obama votes.
So it is not quite what they sel it to be, but it is still a great visualization of space-time data – the Obam aquarium if you want.