I started my lab 2 process by looking for a data set that could have the potential to be explored and yield useful insights. I quickly came across a data set that was used by information is beautiful to develop interesting insights on the variety of energy resources around the world and decided to use the same data to develop an exploratory experience of my own. I started by thinking about the fact that our world today faces an environmental crisis that owes the majority of its scale to fossil fuel industries which are one of the most prominent and dangerous energy resources used around the world today.
I realized that by allowing other energy resources to be compared against the energy that is generated by crude oil every year, I could potentially draw an image of a better world in which we do not need to rely on fossil fuels by taking example from countries such as Iceland whose biggest energy resource is geothermal energy. After starting my process, I realized that even a chance to know and realize how many different types of resources can be available and used simultaneously in a single country, can help my audience understand that an alternative world will not focus on shifting energy resources, but diversifying them to reduce the negative aspects of some less environmentally friendly resources.
When I decided to make my final project be an extension of my Lab 2 project, I started my exploration into wider implications of focusing on renewable energies. I believe the comparison generated in my lab 2 project provided a good foundation for more exploration into the renewable energy sector. For gaining a better understanding of the subject matter and being able to represent viable arguments, I analyzed 2 articles that focused on the wider economic and environmental implications of advancements in renewable energy.
Arguments in favor of renewable energy try to highlight it’s influence on lowering the Co2 emissions on planet earth and allowing for more jobs to be created as a result of investment in renewable energy. Considering the fact that fossil fuel industry has provided millions of job opportunities in the US and worldwide, one of the most important messages that should be communicated in order to lower the social resistance against renewable energies, would be the ability for renewable energy sector to provide as much, or even more job opportunities than fossil fuel industry.
Throughout my research, I will try to highlight a connection between marginal investment in renewable energy and the creation of millions of jobs in certain countries, as well as allowing them to lower their Co2 emission rates in comparison to other advanced industrial nations.
The process I used for generating my visualization started by cleaning up my dataset on Tableau. I started by looking at unnecessary columns and columns that had too many null inputs that would potentially trigger errors later on. I deleted those columns and edited the title for a couple of them that had excessively long titles. Then I went on to design a couple of visualizations, but I quickly noticed that the geo location information for my data was not rendered to have geographical info (latitude, longitude) so I had to modify that in order to generate visuals using the map chart. For generating my graphs, I identified certain factors that if put against each other could yield an outcome that would be comprehensive and would make sense.
After generating a couple renditions of each data set, I went on to create more connection between the context and the visualizations by switching columns and rows or switching filters to create more space for a wholistic understanding of the message. For graphs generated about fossil fuel consumption, I had to create 2 calculated fields that would represent the sum total of fossil fuel consumption versus renewable energy consumption and modify the geolocation information to be recognized by tableau. While looking at my graph representing the jobs created by renewable energy sector, you might notice that I have only decided to represent countries that have generated more than 100K jobs considering the fact that representing all the countries would generate a graph that would not be cohesive for the audience.
For my user experience portion of the project, I decided to allow 2 of my friends who are not data experts to interact with the visualizations without any provided narrative and explain to me what they assumed the story connecting these visualizations would be. After that, I continued by informing them of my actual narrative which was very close to what they have already imagined and asked them to explain to me what each of the graphs are trying to communicate. I wrote down the points they had and followed up by modifying the visualizations that had difficulty communicating the subject matter.
The rationale behind my design choices were primarily focused on the utility and efficiency of communicating the critical points I was trying to communicate. The colorways applied by me in this project are not as playful as they could be considering the rigidness of the subject matter and I tried to focus on color ways that are primarily used in conversations around energy diversity and renewable energies.
I rely heavily on filters because I believe they unlock a level of interaction that will not only facilitate the communication but can also trigger a sense of curiosity within the audience to interact with the piece. It is easy to compare the reactions of people facing static visualizations and interactive visualizations to understand that interactive visualization will make everyone happier than static visualization. This becomes more evident after White house staff have reported that Donald Trump, the president of United States, does not pay attention to static data visualizations and they have been recommended to make them more interactive if they really need him to pay attention.
I also steered clear of trying to merge data sets to create all-in-one graphs considering that often times while pursuing that, you will be forced to modify the data sets to fit each other which in turn can result in unfair modification of certain factors for the sake of creating a more appealing visualization.
I tried to minimize any modification of fundamental data to stay true to the ethics of data analysis. After I came to a conclusion on my visualizations, I started editing the aesthetics which would include changing colorways for graphs or matching colors between visuals that are addressing the same factors. I tried my graphs to present a focus on what is the state of energy resources on the planet at the moment, and what it could be, in a better world. I tried to use red as a demonstration of dangerous factors and green as a representation of renewable factors/energy. I think a defined sign to alert the audience about a critical point that is trying to be communicated is important, and that is why I used a sharp red to increase the level of attention to the negative impact of fossil fuels in my audience.
My findings focus on demonstrating better possibilities for the future. Throughout my analysis, I have identified China and the United States as the highest consumers of energy on the planet and highest producers of energy on the planet. This simple fact allowed me to have a core point of comparison to see if completely replacing fossil fuel with renewable energy would be a viable plan for the future and if the implications of this could be positive for the world.
Energy production capacity
Using my first visualization on energy source diversity, we can see that both China and the United States have a high production capacity for renewable energies that are not being employed as much as other resources. China has a high capacity of using Hydro power and subsequently, United States has a high capacity of Nuclear, and geothermal energy production.
Fossil Fuel Consumption
In the graphs analyzing the fossil fuel consumption against the renewable energy consumption in different countries, we can also see that China and the US are the highest consumers of both fossil fuel and renewable energy as well.
It is also important to mention that their share of consuming renewable energy seems to have a correlation with their amount of renewable energy consumption which is a promising gesture. This could signal the fact that the increased need for energy has forced countries that rely heavily on energy to inevitably have to start producing renewable energies to meet the surplus of energy they require because the traditional energy resources can simply not generate more.
The findings in the Co2 emissions graph, brought me to identify the reasoning behind the United States having such high Co2 Emissions although not having as much use, or production of energy as china. By looking at the data regarding different countries investment in renewable energy sector and creating a visualization based on them, it quickly became apparent to me the reason why US has more than double the Co2 emission of China.
Regional investment in renewable energy
The regional investment in renewable energy demonstrates that from 2004 to 2015, China has on average invested 50% more than the United States in their renewable energy sector. Just in 2015, China invested 102 billion dollars in renewable energy versus 44 Billion that US have invested. The combination of these graphs will allow for a potential speculation that would conclude that China has managed to lower their Co2 emissions by focusing large sums of investment into renewable energy infrastructure. This also indicates that it is important for the United States to follow suit and increase their investment on renewable energies considering that their excessive consumption of energy is making the whole planet inhabitable for everyone.
Global jobs created by renewable energy sector
Furthermore, we know that every argument made in favor of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy will be faced with an argument about the millions of jobs that fossil fuel industry has provided and without it, those jobs would not continue to exist.
Well, that is an argument that relates to your average person working a fossil fuel industry job, but I see it as my responsibility to make this easier for them to understand and provide a glimpse into the ways in which renewable energy could make up for the loss of fossil fuel industry jobs.
In the “jobs created by renewable energy” visualization, we could see that China, by increasingly investing in renewable energy, has managed to create roughly 4.5 million jobs for the Chinese public and even United States with its marginal investment has managed to create almost 1 million new jobs. This could be a testament that a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy does not have to result in mass unemployment, but rather a shift in job duties while knowing that the planet we all rely on for living, will not be annihilated due to your activities.
Throughout this analysis, I hope that I managed to highlight some of the importances of increased investment in renewable energy sector and visualize some of the positive outcomes that have so far been reached. I believe raising awareness about the future decisions we will all have to face is important and hope that this project has helped justify the increase of investment in renewable energy to be a sound idea for my audience if it was not already considered to be one by them.
UX testing results
After allowing my interviewees to guess the story behind my visualizations, oddly enough, both of my interviewees perceived a very close line of story to the overall idea that I was trying to communicate. These are the overlapping sentences in both of their “perceived” stories:
- “Countries who use a lot of energy have the capacity to generate a good amount of renewable energy so why don’t they?”
- “The overall use of renewable energy in comparison to fossil fuel is very low and should be increased”
- “Countries who invest more in renewable energies have less Co2 emissions and have created millions of jobs”
- “US has invested 44 Billion but has only made 1 million jobs while China invested 102 Billion and has produced 4.5 million jobs?”
- “So US and China are killing the planet alone”
My interviewees were quite clear about the ideas that were being presented by the visualizations but had the following suggestions to improve them:
- In the first visualization of energy source diversity, the graph that was the filter could be highlighted more
- Co2 emissions visualization is missing hover over information
- Global jobs created would be more cohesive if arranged based on ascending order of countries with highest value to lowest value.
- “Energy resource diversity” charts and “jobs created” graph share legend colors although have different values represented.
I tried to implement every single one of their suggestions and enhance the areas by which I could facilitate the user interaction and understanding of the data being presented. However, 2 of the graphs share a legend that might be referring to slightly different factors using the same colors but in fact, the second legend is a derivative of the first legend and changing colors for any of them would force us to use unrelatable colors such as pink or purple which could not have anything to do with Solid Biomass as an example.
Although, based on the feedback I received, if there were to be a future revision of the same project, I would try to include more graphs that would work as transitional parts of the narrative to create a more defined path of story for the audience to interact with. The scope of this project did not allow for me to want to generate tens of graphs to better support my hypothesis so I tried to do my best to point out some of the key factors and write a story that would highlight some of the information that could be of great use for all of us to become familiar with.