Dan Kahan sends along this awesome graph (click on the image to see the whole thing):
I [Kahan] saw it at http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/the-100-year-march-of-technology-in-1-graph/255573/ , which misidentified the source (not “visual economics”; visualizingeconomics.com, which attributes it to Nicholas Felton, who apparently condensed this version, which I worry could cause a stroke). But it did have a good write-up that (I’m glad) caught my attention.
It made me [Kahan] start to wonder about what sorts of qualities of a technology will influence its dissemination & also about the availability of benchmarks for proliferation of various sorts of things (e.g, fads & trends, health-promoting behaviors, knowledge of a scientific discovery) that one could use to gauge how meaningful the apparent increase in rates of proliferation of these technologies has been over time. That in turn made me wonder whether — indeed, suspect that — some smart historian or economist has already addressed these points; I’ll have to poke around to see!
It’s not what anyone would or should use to report or illustrate data analysis, but a graph that puts you in the mood to wonder & conjecture — without negligently pointing you in a misleading direction — is a nice species of graph.
Imagining what you [i.e., me] might say, I’d reply that what I’m talking about— & what this is an example of —is different from Nightengale rose; that *was* supposed to be analysis but failed to convey the data behind the intended inference — that deaths caused by poor medical treatment killed many more soldiers than combat — but didn’t in nearly as clear a way as it could have & also didn’t provoke conjecture — only perhaps a desire to make sense of something visually arresting.
My brief response: I think the graph could be cleaned up in some way but basically I like it. It has a directness that is to my taste, unlike the Nightingale graph, whose twists distract from the data message.