Association Is Causation

Instead of unpacking the numerous crates that’ve been stuffed into my room since coming back from Cambridge or studying for the (relatively) imminent arrival of the LSATs in September, I’ve been spending alot of time playing around with Swivel, which is a really gorgeous bit of Internet cleverness. Essentially, it’s a platform for people to upload raw data and play with it in a nice visual way. There’s the standard bunch of little Web 2.0 accouterments like community tagging, etc.

But the overall effect is very slick in a nerdy way: the capacity to generate all sorts of associations — valid or spurious — is hugely fun once you get into it. They’re also about to make it possible to compare/relate data over geographic maps, which pretty is pants crap worthy in terms of coolness. I have to admit that it’s kind of the same buzz you get when you’re suffering from Wikipedia Infomania-itus and you lose hours from fascinated clicking.

It’s a simple idea, but it makes it easy to generate such mind-bending graphs as —

Showing the NASDAQ close (orange) to be closely related (procyclically!) to college student use of Ecstasy, cocaine, and crystal meth (the other lines). Trying to come up with a plausible explanation of why that’s the case is great. Even if it’s entirely a false comparison, just the idea that NASDAQ volatility might be a reliable predictor is hysterical.

I wonder if this cool factor is period dependent. The “everything is connected/data is nifty” theme in popular literature has been getting bigger recently. Kind of reminds me in some ways of a practical example of the much touted Freakonomics or what Weschler did in Everything That Rises

So, this is kind of a long way of saying that I want to share an awesome thing that I saw recently. My brother and I got into a long conversation last night about information bottlenecks and media manipulation. And then he showed me this.

HOLY (QUALIFIED AND SKEPTICAL) SHIT! like how sweet is that


1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    […] fellow data-nerd Tim and I were checking it out, we found the above excellent breakdown of the lyrics of “Crank […]

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