By: Sean M. Gonzalez For the first time, an Enhanced State of The Union Address is available online, complete with timely visualizations. The President did not deliver a power point presentation, the Enhanced SOTU provided visualizations that complimented the speech through supporting data, infographics, a repeat of the quote, and compelling images. Once done with the speech, to gather feedback, the transcript was made interactive so everyone can comment on any specific sentence. Some visualizations stand alone, others require context from the speech, all are designed to guide your thought processes to reinforce a message.
Loosely speaking, since President Obama took office Republicans in Congress have taken an uncompromising stance against many of his and the Democrat's initiatives. One compelling poll is that 77% of Americans believe games in Washington are causing serious harm to our country. To illustrate this poll, the infographic shows 77 of 100 stick figures as a separate color, and to make his more subtle point, Obama colors the majority in Democrat blue and the minority in Republican red. The messages in infographics are not always explicit, in this case not so subtle either; are all the people who think games cause harm really Democrat's? That's silly of course, thousands were polled, but infographics are designed to lead us into assumptions and questions the presenter would like us to make.
The first thing you notice in this infographic is the Model-T, immediately invoking thoughts of the early 20th century. The image is more compelling because rather than imagining what is 100 years old, the image makes you think of other things from the same time period (black and white photography, prohibition, Woodrow Wilson, Ford, horse and buggy, etc.) and your mind naturally realizes they are all roughly 100 years old. It's the difference of rote learning versus learning by discovery, and by discovering the connections ourselves it's almost like it's our own idea. Further, we know we've made progress since the Model-T, and so anything associated with it must be old and out of date, right? In this case we are to believe that oil subsidies are out of date and closing loopholes is progressive. Did it work on you?
We all have seen images of the human brain, either from school or especially in the last decade as new imaging technologies, such as fMRI, has become much more widely available to researchers. Even if you were a neuroscientist, you might assume these scans were created via fMRI, and you could likely explain which regions of the brain are highlighted, but what is the difference between the extremes of color in each chart? Why does each chart have a different color scale? What was the person doing when these scans were taken? Are these scans even of the same person? These images are not designed to convey specific scientific knowledge, they are designed to invoke cutting edge analysis of the brain. The compelling nature of the images (everyone loves heatmaps) makes you want to keep whatever created them, in this case the cutting edge research The President argues will provide America with significant ROI.