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Graphic Train Schedules of the MetroNorth

In June 2019, I spoke at a meetup hosted by the NYC of the Data Visualization Society. My presentation had 3 parts:

  1. Why remaking historical graphics is a good way to learn data visualization (and why Graphical Train Tables are special)
  2. How I scope side coding projects to optimize for motivation + learning
  3. Sharing a React / D3/ Canvas demo specifically prepared for this event

Here are the slides from my 20 minute talk about remaking a design from the 1800s using 21st century tools and data.

Since some of the slides don’t make sense without narration, I might make a blog post version of this in the future.

The (non-mobile-friendly) interactive visualization is available here: https://metronorth-viz.netlify.com/. I occasionally use this graphic instead of Google Maps to consider transportation options when I’m feeling flexible about departure time and destination.

Appendix - Post presentation Twitter discussion

In my first release, I misattributed this design’s invention to Charles Marey. Luckily, data visualization historian Sandra Rendgren pointed out the error, and I updated the language to give credit to Charles Ibry. You can learn more about the history of this design in her writeup (which I highly recommend here).

Edward Tufte tweeted a response, where I learned about Steve Stigler’s Law of Eponymy. I believe that giving due credit is important when there’s a clear individual originator. I appreciated Stephanie Tuerk’s reminder that rather than necessarily stemming from a single creator

ideas are formed through networks, rather than by individuals in isolation.

This idea returns in Niall Ferguson’s The Square and the Tower (thanks Jarrod!). It suggests that virality may have less to do with the intrinsic content of an idea, and more to do with the shape of the network that the idea hits. This notion is supported by the phenomenon of Multiple Discovery. Signature examples of this include the simultaneous discovery of calculus by Gottfried Leibniz and Isaac Newton, as well as the discovery of Natural Selection by both Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace.