Left vs. Right: Re-visualizing the political spectrum (in polarizing times)
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Fair and balanced
Back in January I posted this infographic on my Facebook page as an interesting example of information design. I found it thought-provoking, but didn’t bother to articulate why.
Then this morning, I was watching a TED talk on YouTube with information designer David McCandless, and up popped the same chart. (Ironically, I had just come indoors after pulling my collection of political yard signs out of the ground, hoping to appease my neighbors.)
Viewing the graphic nearly a year later, in the aftermath of the cut-throat mid-term elections, it struck me as quaint and out of date. The hues of red and blue now looked too subdued, the lines too soft around the edges. It’s a friendly looking graphic, in contrast to the technicolor FOX News one in my mind.
And I guess that’s part of the point — and perhaps the chief reason it begs a second look. These are polarizing times, and we desperately need to find some commonality.
Oh say, can you see…
As McCandless eloquently described the thought process behind his infographic, I scribbled down his words (on Post-its, the back of an envelope, and the margins of the comics section of the Boston Globe). Here’s the bit that resonated with me most:
“When I was designing this image, I desperately wanted this side, the left side, to be betterthan the right side (…being a journalist type, a left-leaning person). But I couldn’t because I would have created a lopsided, biased diagram. So in order to really create a full image I had to honor the perspectives on the right-hand side, and at the same time I had to sort of, uncomfortably, recognize how many of qualities were actually in me—which was really, really annoying… and uncomfortable.
“But not too uncomfortable … because there’s something unthreatening about seeing a political perspective versus being told or forced to listen to one.
You’re capable of holding conflicting viewpoints, joyously even, when you can see them.”
“That’s what’s exciting for me: to see how data can change my perspective and change my ideas, even mid-stream.”— David McCandless, author of Information is Beautiful, available on Amazon.com and at informationisbeautiful.net
Watch the entire TED Talk here:
(Click on link above. The Left vs. Right bit is at 14:50.)