Visualizing Data Through…Food?

Rather than finding a data visualization project that portrays information about food and technology, I came across Data Cuisine: an ongoing research project that uses food to represent data. But what does this mean, exactly? The website contains a multitude of “Data Dishes,” which are recipes produced in their workshops that are then used as a means for representing statistical data.

Although the project only utilizes photography and static images, I believe these data visualizations are very effective. The “dishes” portray all different types of information, with everything from types of crimes enacted in a particular country to proportions of languages that are spoken within a geographical area. Being that my beat is about food and new media, I chose to highlight three dishes that relate to data about digital media usage:

Where Tweets in the Arab world come from:

From http://data-cuisine.net/data-dishes/
From http://data-cuisine.net/data-dishes/

The percentage of people who use Facebook in Arab Spring countries:

From http://data-cuisine.net/data-dishes/
From http://data-cuisine.net/data-dishes/

How websites are accessed in Iran (blocked vs. accessible sites):

From http://data-cuisine.net/data-dishes/
From http://data-cuisine.net/data-dishes/

I would guess that many people do not know a lot about the  social media and Internet habits of people in the Middle East. These data visualizations offer this information in a concise, clear, and visually appealing way. In a traditional journalism piece, we might be provided with a simple bar graph or pie chart to represent this type of data. Data Cuisine takes it to a new level by incorporating food–specifically a dish’s ingredients–to relate statistical data to something society not only understands, but enjoys: food.

Personally, I am fascinated by the work that Data Cuisine is doing. But I can see criticisms from people who don’t see the point of these visualizations, or believe that they are too simple. I think the work that this research organization is doing will only grow in the future, and has the potential to influence how masses of people think about  social issues and cultural differences.

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