Using Many Eyes to create data visualisations

Many Eyes is one of the better free online tools for making quick data visualisations – here is our guide to putting one together.

The Interhacktives were introduced to it in our latest class with James Ball. It’s a pretty foolproof process so I thought I would take you through it:

Firstly, you need to look at your data and decide what can be visualised and why you are visualising it. Just like any good journalism you need to tell a story with your infographic – so do not just throw in any old chart to dress up an article.

The dataset I used was the ONS’s recently released statistics on the Live Births in England and Wales by Characteristics of Mother (2011). I decided to pluck out the age of parents giving birth during that year.

Open up Many Eyes – create a profile – and click “Create a visualisation”. You can use datasets already uploaded to the site or upload your own, which is what we are doing.

Make sure that your data is formatted cleanly as you are going to have to copy and paste it into the table into this rectangle. With this data in particular I combined the births within marriages and births outside of marriages and then copied and pasted onto a new sheet – you can get my cleaned data here.

I removed the total amounts (unnecessary for my visualisation) and made the row and column titles clearer – instead of having one row saying “Father” with the age brackets below, I put the word “Father aged” before each age category. I did the same for the age of the mother – the row and column headers will be used within the Many Eyes visualisation so you want to make sure they are as clear as possible.

Paste the data

Many Eyes will then show you how it has processed the data – make sure that what it views text and numbers correctly. Also make sure that your data is replicated exactly how it is on your original spreadsheet.

Check that we understood
You can then upload your data to the site. Just for a disclaimer: ANY DATA UPLOADED TO MANY EYES WILL BE PUBLICALLY AVAILABLE. If you do not want people to know what you are doing either give your data an obscure title or do not use the site.

Go to the next step and it will show you your fully formatted dataset. This is the fun part: click “Visualize”.

You will then be offered a number of visualisations from which to choose. Think about what you want your data to show and the best way in which to show it. James pointed out that when you have some large numbers and some small numbers bubble charts often work best for giving a true comparison – so that is the visualisation I went for.

You have the option to “Flip” if the visualisation is not showing what you want it to show.  But if you are using the same data as me it should look like this:

Age of new parents in England and Wales  in 2011 Many Eyes

What I learned: Although most people have children with fathers of the same age,  it shows that fathers are much more likely to be older than vice versa. This is something much more pronounced when you pluck out the live births to married parents, which I also created a graphic for. Also there are some curious outliers: 2 children were born with a mother under 20 and a father between 60 and 64.

It is a pretty simple process and we all got the hang of it relatively quickly so I would encourage you to make your own. Let us know if you do and please share them with us.

Take a look at the data here.

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