Death by numbers

Graph of accidental deaths on Many-Eyes.comI’m not the first person to notice we have become a society obsessed with numbers and statistics. But still, it is hard not to sense the impact of a good visual representation of data. I saw a presentation by one of the brilliant designers who created Many Eyes, a public service from IBM labs that “enables collaborative visualization of publicly available data sets,” like this one on causes of death. Anyone can use this tool to upload their excel data and turn it into a tool that a community can comment on rather than just blindly accept at face value. Then there is the more sobering counting of military deaths in Iraq from the beginning of the war until October, 2006 and yet it is easy to overlook both debilitating injuries and the very real individual losses by just looking at a flash animation. These numbers say the town where I grew up is the second most expensive place to die in the country . Of course that makes sense because living there is out of my price range too (But LA is the cheapest? How does that make any sense?). Finally, I couldn’t finish the post without mentioning the ultimate in numbers, Death and Taxes even though it isn’t specifically on death, or even inheritance tax, but at least its on two things you can be sure of. Oh, and then there’s the dead pool, but playing those numbers is a little dark for my taste.