Female activism in the time of COVID19, rich & poor countries and the global flow of AI talent

Issue #1 of The Datavist, a weekly newsletter highlighting great instances of data-driven storytelling in the humanities.

Welcome to the very first edition of The Datavist. My name is Darragh Murray, an analytics and visualisation practitioner with a deep interest in how people understand and experience the world.

In this newsletter, I'll be highlighting great instances of data visusalisation and data driven storytelling within the broad remit of "the humanities".

Front matter

Data visualisation is quickly becoming mainstream and it's having a huge impact on the way we understand humanities disciplines. From history to geopolitics, and philosophy to public policy, the field of data visaulisation is emerging as a tool ripe to deepen our understanding of these important disciplines.

The remit is deliberately broad and reflective of my own interests. While my day to day work is in data and analytics, I have qualifications in history and international politics and I felt it was about time I gathered all my interests under one banner.

In each edition, I hope to share with you at least three articles or links that have resonated with me during the week

I'm going to start off by being somewhat ambitious, aiming to get an edition out each week.

This may change at some point in the future as I will be collating this in my sometimes very scarce time. But I hope its going to be a bit of fun and I hope you get some value out of it.

If you have any comments, criticisms or articles to suggest, you're more than welcome to email them to me at thedatavist@gmail.com. I'll do my best to to respond when I get the chance! Alternatively, feel free to hit me up on Twitter.

Let’s take it away!

Not on our watch: the spirit of woman activists and political violence against them during the COVID-19 Pandemic Burst

Inbal Rief | The Nightingale | 22 December 2020

If you're not subscribed to Nightingale, you're doing yourself a great disservice. Mind-boggling data visualisation and insight work is done there and this visual essay by Inbal Rief published in mid-December 2020 on female political activism during the early days of the COVID19 is a real doozy.

Inbal's essay starts by asking the question "what is the impact of COVID-19 on female-centered political activity worldwide?"

Inbal quickly shows, using data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, that political activity increased significantly during the first stages of the COVID19 pandemic despite the presence of lock downs throughout much of the world. 

Early on, Inbal hits us with this clever use of a Sankey diagram which breaks down forms of political action during the first months of COVID19 by category and links it to specific dates during this period. We can quickly see that not only protests occurred, but violence against civilians and riots were observed during a time when much of the world was dealing with the pandemic.

The essay throws up some fascinating insights - such as the huge increase in attacks against health and social care workers in places like Mexico where the overwhelming majority of such women. This is a really great data-driven read.

Do workers in richer countries work longer hours?

Charlie Giattino and Estban Ortiz-Ospina | Our World in Data | 21 December 2020

I visited Our World in Data (OWID) a lot during 2020. Their in-depth analysis of the COVID19 pandemic was second-to-none and what’s even better is that they made all their data and analysis pretty much free to everyone. It's a site I visit often during my day-to-day job.

In mid to late December 2020, they released analysis looking at whether workers in poorer countries work longer hours. Surprise, surprise - they do and for what seems to be obvious reasons. People in rich countries produce more value with every input of work, meaning they don't have to work as much, and thus have far more time for leisure.

This chart comparing working hours versus GDP per capita over time really jumped out to me. It’s quite clear

As we can see, over the last 50 years (or so), some countries (like Germany and Australia) have managed to generate wealth despite falling annual working hours.

In contrast, countries like China and India and Indonesia, have increased wealth but have had to keep hours worked more or less constant. OWID’s provides this explanation:

…richer countries workers are able to produce more with each hour of work, which translates into higher incomes and the ability to work less. The large differences in working hours across countries have important implications for the way we think about the economic progress made in the last two centuries and the nature of inequality between countries today.

Reading through OWID's thorough analyses, I couldn't help but think of George Monbiot's opening sentence from his 2011 article on the 1% "if wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire".

The Global AI Talent Tracker

Marco Polo | June 9 2020

Looking at the title, you might be thinking this article is already breaking my loose "humanities" rule, but Marco Polo's Global AI Talent Tracker contains some very interesting insights on the global movement of people in the race for AI dominance.

This sankey diagram (another sankey!) quickly allows the reader to see where AI researchers are produced and where they end up. While many students study AI at undergraduate level in the likes of China, the US dominates both at graduate school and post-graduate work.

In the accompanying analysis piece, Marco Polo conclude that the United States substantial lead over other countries in top-tier AI research has been more or less achieved through the recruitment of international students and researchers flowing to US institutions.

It's also very interesting to see the breakdown of AI research by institution in this collection of documents. Spoiler alert: a university isn't in #1 place.


That's it for the very first edition of The Datavist! Hope you enjoyed it and please consider subscribing to get this to your inbox every Monday.

Thanks for reading.