FV #34 - Global Issues of Olympic Proportions

I'm an addict.

A junkie, even.

I can't get enough of these Olympics.  I'm staying up way too late to watch events where I already know the results.  I'm watching (and loving) events that if they are on any other time of year I don't even tune in* (hello rowing, volleyball, field hockey, etc.).  

In honor of these Olympic Games I bring you today's Friday Visual (which was brought to my attention by the wonderful site Very Short List but there is a more detailed article over here at Co.Design).  

In this set of visuals, graphic artist Gustavo Sousa uses the iconic Olympic rings to represent which continents have the most prisoners, HIV patients, McDonald's, and more.  Naturally, the relative size of each ring correlates to the relevant data points.  

You can view a static version of each visualization over at Mr. Sousa's appropriately named OceaniaEuropeAmericasAfricaAsia tumblr 

I had a couple of thoughts/issues regarding this visual (which, indecently, I like very much).

First, There is no key as to which color represents which continent.  I did a quick search and found that the traditional belief (clearly based on stereotypes) is that the colors of each ring correspond like this: blue for Europe, yellow for Asia, black for Africa, green for Australia and Oceania and red for the Americas.  But the visual didn't seem to comply with this scheme.  I did some additional research and according to the International Olympic Committee the colors don't represent any specific continents anyway:

On the Olympic flag, the rings appear on a white background. Combined in this way, the six colours of the flag (blue, yellow, black, green, red and white) represent all nations. It is a misconception, therefore, to believe that each of the colours corresponds to a certain continent.
Hey, who knew?  So, I did a little deductive reasoning by interpreting the visuals and figured that:
  • Red = Americas
  • Green = Asia
  • Yellow = Africa
  • Black = Europe
  • Blue = Oceania/Australia.  
This would be a great activity to do with students.  Have them figure out which colors represent which continent and have them back up why.  Although, it's also a good lesson to teach students to label their visualizations.

My second issue is that the creator (Mr. Sousa) provides no source as to where he procured the data to create this visualization.  Now, I have no reason not to believe the data as he visualizes it but call me old fashioned, I like to see the source.  This would be another good conversation to have with your students.

Finally, I was ready to call BS on the gun ownership visual.  After all, if there is one thing that the United States is good at it is owning guns.  So, the visual should be heavily skewed red.  But, I did some research on this too and... we are good at owning guns.  Reuters says we (i.e. civilians) own 270 million of them.  However, there are 875 million civilian owned guns worldwide (!).  Again, who knew... so, this visual appears to be accurate, too.  

gun ownership


So, other countries are gun crazy too... but we totally rule at McDonald's.  As always, I'm curious what you think about this one.


 *Let's be honest, these competitions ARE only televised once every four years for good reason.