November 8, 2004

The Purple Map

Clive Thompson at collision detection does everyone a great service with his thoughts and illustrations on The interface election , a short but sweet summation of the need to upgrade the graphics everywhere.

Call me nuts, but I think one of the biggest challenges American media and punditry has is an interface problem: They are stuck on one dramatic, manichean way of viewing the data. Imagine if TV news and newspapers regularly showed the second map every time they talked about the election. How can you look at that map and talk about some enormous, festering divide in the country? You can't. As any scientist or graphic artist or video-game player knows, the tools you have for visualizing your situation enormously determine how you think about it.
He's correct. Enough of the Blue/Red symbol, and, while we're at it we really, really need to toss out that JesusLand / United States of Canada atrocity that's being passed around.

I'm going for the purple map. It always was one of my favorite colors.

Posted by Vanderleun at November 8, 2004 10:51 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Many more revealing maps at

They've got all kinds of variations on blue-red vs. purple, states vs. counties, and cartogram vs. not.

Posted by: Gabe at November 8, 2004 11:28 AM

As one of the 45% who didn't vote for the winning candidate in his state, I wholeheartedly concur. Heck, 40% of us didn't even vote for the winner in our COUNTY, so let's throw that map out too while we're at it.

Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with using a choropleth map to display election results. It's been used for decades, and for decades we seemed capable of understanding that it was simply a graphical representation of who won each state, nothing more. Somehow in the last four years it got transformed into the idea that there are two homogeneous, opposite cultures that begin and end at the state lines.

Posted by: Tom L at November 8, 2004 12:16 PM

Purple - the color of Barney the dinosaur and the title of a BAD Oprah Winfrey movie.

Nuff said.

Posted by: M. Murcek at November 8, 2004 12:45 PM

"...he title of a BAD Oprah Winfrey movie."

Are you implying that there exists a good Oprah Winfrey movie? The very phrase "Oprah Winfrey movie"...

Posted by: Ben at November 8, 2004 2:36 PM