Re: InfoD-Cafe: holmes graphics in new harper's article
Deborah Taylor-Pearce <dtp <at> she-philosopher.com>
2006-05-06 19:30:34 GMT
> I found one of the sections so
> baffling I wanted to show it to
> you, the list, but I don't have
> access to a scanner. So I did an
> intentionally crude redrawing
> (I don't want to get in trouble)
> and put it here:
> Am I alone in having trouble
> understanding this?
(First off, just so you know: your idea of "crude" would
pass for pretty high-end in a lot of circles!
Second, I think it's difficult to judge the expressiveness
of a single graphic like this, because it's been divorced
from its information context.
If the article's graphics are designed to integrate with
(rather than just decorate the text, then it could well
be that Holmes relied on a relational matrix -- which is
missing to us -- to recursively build meaning.
If, however, the graphics were intended to communicate a
complete message as stand-alone visuals, then I think it's
fair to criticize this one.
The relationship between purchasing power and debt is quite
complex (a good example, actually, "of eros, and of logos as
forever intertwined and intertwining" , yet the
"A $1000 monthly payment can carry different levels
headline of the graphic skews our interpretation away from
purchasing power (which is what the bars illustrate).
> My bias was to see it as: if you
> borrow some amount of money at
> some percent interest and pay it
> back over some number of years,
> you will pay a certain total
> amount of money.
I had the same initial bias because that's what these charts
usually show. Hence, we approach the visual genre with
Without having read the accompanying article, I can't
second-guess the intent of author and illustrator, but I can
tell you that the graphic plays to a different bias: that of
potential home buyers who, if they are going to finance a
purchase, are usually less interested in total costs over a
30-year term than they are in how much house they can afford.
And the graphic does show you, at a glance, just how much
the changing interest rates will affect your purchasing power.
Hence, the much-ballyhooed "slow down" (or "softening") in
the U.S. housing market.
A lot of USers are carrying a lot of debt, can't afford to
go any higher in their monthly payments for a home, and so
are really impacted by increasing interest rates.
> What are they trying to express,
> and how would you express it?
I would change the headline to emphasize the relationship
between debt and purchasing power.
A $1000 monthly payment can carry different levels
Note how the purchasing power of a $1000 monthly
payment nearly triples as the debt lingers and the
interest rate declines.
with the 2nd explanatory statement set in some form of
distinguishing type (smaller, perhaps, and in the same color
as the callouts for the $ amount in the bars).
dtp <at> she-philosopher.com
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