The 345 days that have passed in 2013 (94.5 percent of the year) have, necessarily, been the 345 most-technologically advanced in human history, meaning that this year's crop of interactive infographics can be considered among the best the world has ever seen. Here, the best of the best.
A note on terminology. These things — charts, maps, interactives, graphs — are all different things with the same purpose: displaying information visually. In an online world, there's enormous overlap between them: is a chart that changes when you move a slider an interactive? Is a map of data also a chart? So we said, to Hell with the distinction. Here are the best examples from the broad category of infographics that we saw — and made — in 2013. If you disagree, it's simply because your definition of "best" is not the same as ours. But ours is correct.
The best of everyone else
The PRISM slides
On June 6, The Washington Post published the first in an ongoing series of files leaked from Edward Snowden to the paper. Included among them was this, apparently created either in late 2012 or early 2013, demonstrating how the world's most popular websites were collaborating with the NSA to facilitate surveillance of targets.
It's inelegant and confusing in its presentation — what's the y-axis? — but its significance in the year can't be underestimated.
How Americans use language differently
Business Insider's blockbuster post of 22 maps showing how Americans use language differently was, quite rightfully, a big hit. It's fascinating to see not only how different areas use different words, but how those differences aren't always reflected in the other distinctions presented.
The minute the first bomb exploded in Boston
In the aftermath of the April 15 bomb attack at the Boston Marathon, The New York Times created an interactive showing a photo of people crossing or at the finish line when the explosion occurred, then matching them to interviews conducted later. It was an effective way of presenting a very confusing moment.
The map of the Internet
The Internet map uses data on website size and activity to present a unique way of looking at the internet — as a series of larger and smaller planets around which other bodies and constellations swarm. The depth of its scale is one of its most remarkable features; it allows you to take even the smallest site and see how it compares to the rest of everything online.
Political polarization since 1857
The Brookings Institution's graph of polarization makes an increasingly obvious point even clearer. By tracking how closely members of Congress hewed to the rest of their party over time, you can watch as the body increasingly becomes two clusters of similarly-minded voters.
The world sets a new carbon dioxide record
Earlier this year, the observatory at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, for the first time recorded a reading of 400 part-per-million carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As The Washington Post put it, it marked the highest level of atmospheric CO2 in 800,000 years.
So who cares? Well, not enough people, apparently. The increasing presence of the most abundant greenhouse gas suggests that global warming is not going to reverse any time soon. It's 50 ppm higher than what scientists suggest could prevent the worst climate change effects — and it's still going up.
The age of every building in New York City
A programmer in San Francisco merged two sets of data to create one of the most impressive visualizations in recent memory: Every building in the city of New York, colored by the era in which it was built.
America's favorite porn [NSFW]
The adult site Pornhub (which does what it says on the tin) figured out what porn Americans in every state liked the most. That is a more interesting map than the chart above, which shows the states that spent the most time on the site (do you need a hobby, Mississippi?) — but it also contains language that might make some people a bit uncomfortable. Because it is about porn.
The other Earth-like planets we know about
Another great Times interactive, this one shows each of the 150 Earth-like planets that have been discovered by NASA's Kepler mission — their size, their orbits, their temperatures. It's pure data, just representations, but it's still enormously suggestive of what could be.
Lebron James' Game 7 Shots
Drew Sheppard made one of the most impressive sports visualizations of the year, overlaying every single shot taken by the Heat's Lebron James in the last game of the NBA finals. It's 60 minutes presented in 10 important seconds. Yahoo has more on the image.
How much various people make in one minute
Speaking of professional basketball players, CNN Money's interactive video shows the relative earnings of various people and occupations over the course of 60 seconds. If you are not Kobe Bryant, this will be humbling.
Wired's breakdown of Food Network recipes
Wired magazine decided it wanted to run an experiment in scraping content off the web. So Dylan Fried created a script that pulled in information from Food Network's 49,000-plus recipes, building a variety of beautiful graphics with the resulting data.
Hat-tip, Stephen Lurie.
The best from The Wire
The Wire is a news site, so our interactives and charts and what-have-yous tend to focus on what's happening in the moment. But we still get to explore most interesting things.
The spread of gay marriage
The most remarkable thing about this image (which is our May 14th version) is that we had to update it half-a-dozen times over the course of the year as gay marriage spread to more and more states. (We did something similar for the spread of legal marijuana.)
All of the Obama conspiracy theories
We created this graphic (zoomed-in version here) to try and categorize the various theories about why or how President Obama was purportedly involved in scandals. The premise at the heart of each? That Obama hates America.
America's favorite Halloween candy
We used Twitter mentions to determine how America's favorite candy changed over the last five years. It tracks very closely to actual sales, for what it's worth.
The GOP civil war, mapped
Another one we had to update multiple times. In the wake of the government shutdown, we created this map of the two sides in the increasingly hostile civil war in the Republican Party.
The web's love affair with charts
This is how often an increasingly chart-obsessed internet has created posts dedicated to proving something "in one chart." We prefer long articles with multiple charts, ourselves.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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