NPR logo Programmers Create 'Heatmap' Visualization With WikiLeaks Data


Programmers Create 'Heatmap' Visualization With WikiLeaks Data

On The New York Times Bits blog, Nick Bilton draws our attention to a "heatmap" visualization, developed by programmers and faculty members from Columbia, NYU, and Princeton, including postdoctoral researcher Michael Dewar.

It "shows activity in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2009 and maps the 'logged events' recorded in the documents" released by WikiLeaks last month.

As Bilton notes, it is an incomplete record of the war in Afghanistan, "missing many references to seminal events and does not include more highly classified information."

But the visualization shows surges of activity over this five-year period, growing drastically as the war progresses.

Here is how the developers describe it:

The intensity of the heatmap represents the number of events logged. The color range is from 0 to 60+ events over a one-month window. We cap the color range at 60 events so that low intensity activity involving just a handful of events can be seen — in lots of cases there are many more than 60 events in one particular region. The heatmap is constructed for every day in the period from 2004-2009, and the movie runs at 10 days per second.

The orange lines represent the major roads in Afghanistan, and the black outlines are the individual administrative regions.