Thursday, 24 October 2013

Why use maps to explore peace?

This blog is by Philippa Lysaght from Vision of Humanity  as a part of the Wikiprogress blog series on indicators.
Mapping peace allows people from around the world to navigate the complex fabric of peace and to question what makes societies peaceful.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are thrilled to announce that the Global Peace Index map has been long listed for the 2013 Information is Beautiful awards

Visualising the Global Peace Index was a challenging and exciting task. We thought we would share with you a little background on the interactive map and why we think it is important to visualise peace indices using a map. The Global Peace Index interactive map visualises the Global Peace Index (GPI), a composite index that measures peace in 162 countries according to 22 indicators.

The objective is to engage a diverse audience with peace research by encouraging you to explore levels of peacefulness around the world and discover what makes a country peaceful.

The GPI is a very large and complicated index; the challenge is to represent the data in an understandable and meaningful way, while ensuring it remains relevant, engaging and beautiful.

To deal with the complexity of the index the data is visualised in layers, allowing you to choose if and when you are ready to dig deeper and discover more. At the global level, the map gives you an instant understanding of levels of peacefulness around the world; it also allows you to see how peace changes over time. As you navigate the map, the tool tip informs you of the rank and encourages you to discover more. Once a country has been selected, a “scorecard” gives you a snapshot of levels of peace in that country by creating a national peace profile and summarising the index into three categories.

The “related news” section of the scorecard brings relevance to a country’s peace score by linking the research to current news and events. Digging deeper, you can discover the “full stats” of a country, allowing you to breakdown the peace score according to each indicator of the GPI – this will help explain why the country you are looking at is more or less peaceful than you thought, engaging you further with the research and making you really question what makes a society peaceful.

At the global level, you can already compare peacefulness by country according to the colour scale; however there is more to compare. If you want to discover why the United States is less peaceful than northward neighbour Canada, you can simply click on both countries to get an overview of levels of peace according to three key categories.  To explore the data further you can select a “full stats comparison,” which gives you a detailed comparison by indicator.

Peace is a complex concept; there are many different factors that contribute to levels of peacefulness. The GPI’s 22 indicators give a pretty comprehensive view of peace. As a composite index, scoring poorly or well on one indicator will affect your overall score and ranking, so it is important that you can see how different countries fare according to each indicator of peace. At the global level, you can “select an indicator” and view the world according to that element of peace. For example, seeing the world according to the indicator “Number of Deaths from Internal Conflict” immediately highlights countries affected by the Arab Spring, as well as the drug war in Mexico.

What makes this method of visualisation so powerful is its ability to engage a wide audience with the very complex concept of peace in a way that encourages a deeper understanding.  

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