plume graphnoun. A graphic means of visualizing change in data on a 2-dimensional map in which altitude represents the passage of time.

John Bohannon

Molecular Biologist / Journalist

This is a visualization of a military data set released to me after
I was embedded with NATO forces in Afghanistan in October 2010. In this view, the rhythms of the war in time and space emerge. These data represent an ongoing tragedy. But we shouldn't look away. Without such data, we can never know the true cost of the war.

Download these data, and read the story that describes them: http://www.sciencemag.org/hottopics/afghanistan/

George Michael Brower

Designer & Developer

If animated data visualization is something akin to shooting film,
the plume graph is a long exposure photo. In this particular data set, one can count five dimensions of information, modeled in three dimensional space and ultimately flattened to a two dimensional image. The power of this technique lies in the fact that such multi-dimensional information can be digested in moments. My hope is that this framework will become repurposable for use with other data sets in the very near future.

That this visualization can be viewed in-browser is a testament to the promise of modern web technologies such as WebGL, HTML5 and CSS3, all of which were leveraged in this piece. As browsers adopt support for these standards, developers and their audience will enjoy fewer barriers to rich experiences, hopefully increasing the visibility and appreciation of code as art. Thanks to Ricardo Cabello for three.js as well as Chris Lauritzen and Jono Brandel.

Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan, 2009 - 2010

  • Caused by Military
  •   Jets
  •   Helicopters
  •   Escalation of Force
  •   Direct Fire
  •   Indirect Fire
  •   Road Traffic Accident
  •   Unknown
  • Caused by Insurgents
  •   Direct Fire
  •   Indirect Fire
  •   Improvised Explosive Device
  •   Complex
  •   Other
  • Killed 
  • Wounded 
About this visualization …