In this lab, we will practice applying the taxonomy of data graphics to images that we find in the wild.

Goal: by the end of this lab, you will be able to deconstruct data graphics into explicit maps between variables and visual cues.

Death of a Terrorist

In a 2011 article, The New York Times explored readers’ reactions to then-President Barack Obama’s announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden. The following visualization illustrates the reactions of 13,864 readers.

As always, you may find it helpful to read the full article.

This visualization uses a Cartesian coordinate system. The visual cue of vertical position is mapped to the variable of the reader’s perception of how much of a turning point Bin Laden’s death was. Similarly, the visual cue of position in the horizontal direction is mapped to the reader’s emotional response. Shade (or intensity) is mapped to the frequency of similar responses.

Thus, a data frame with three variables (columns) is sufficient to produce this data graphic.

The scales in this graphic are not defined, but are presumably linear. Context is provided by the axis labels and the actual comments that appear when you mouse-over a particular cell.


For each of the following data graphics, identify the visual cues, coordinate system, scales, and context employed. Identify the explicit mapping between the variables and visual cues used in each graphic.

  1. How the recession shaped the economy

  1. After the vote

  1. Subprime mortgage foreclosures

Your learning

Please respond to the following prompt on Slack in the #mod=-viz channel.

Prompt: What aspects of the taxonomy of data graphics are still unclear? What could use further explanation?