Many Eyes is a free data visualization tool that allows history teachers and students to browse through existing data sets, or create their own, in order to develop visualizations from a wide variety of options. Useful in making
data-based comparative analysis, Many Eyes aids students through its potential as a graphic organizing tool and a different way of approaching historical research.
Although registering with the Many Eyes site is not required to browse the existing collection of data sets and visualizations, registration is recommended in order to create and upload new information.
Many Eyes allows users to browse and search through various options: visualizations, data sets, people (creators), topic centers, and comments. Another option is to search by tags in a word cloud. For educators teaching American history, searching for visualizations tagged as "U.S." yields several interesting data sets: 2004 electoral votes by state, a U.S. Constitution Wordle, sales tax by state, U.S. property crime for 1985 through 2005, and US federal spending between 1901 and 2005.
Please keep in mind that the open-source nature of Many Eyes can lead to erroneous data, so teacher discernment is recommended. It is worthwhile, though, for users to browse several visualizations in order to gauge the accuracy of data provided, as well as to get a feel for what Many Eyes can do before trying to upload new data.
Each data set is displayed with an initial, default visualization (Note: Java installation is required to view the visualizations). Users can change the default visualization by clicking on the data set file link, found below the image. Once a data set page displays, users can select a different visualization by selecting from a variety of options and clicking on the "Visualize" button, which is found below the information that is displayed. Many Eyes has six major categories of visualization—text analysis, charts and histograms, relationships among data points, parts of a whole, maps, and graphs—each of which contain three or four options.
In Abraham Lincoln's 1861 Inaugural Address, for example, the default visualization is a modification of a "phrase net"; a simple change to a word cloud generator reveals different relationships within the Inaugural Address. The ability to switch between various visualizations for any given data set is a powerful way to show students how varying displays of information can significantly shape our perceptions of history.
After exploring the various data sets and visualizations, and searching for specific social studies information, users can begin to construct/collect their own data set. This is a simple step, requiring users to enter data on an Excel spreadsheet or other text file where columns are separated by tabs; for text-based entries such as speeches or full-length texts, users can simply copy and paste from a word processor document. With either option, users simply need to highlight their desired information, copy, and paste onto the Many Eyes website's "Upload Data" page, which walks users through the few steps required to produce an original visualization.
The simplicity of registering on the site, searching various data sets and visualizations, uploading new information, and creating a new visualization is the most attractive aspect of Many Eyes. For history teachers, the ability to critically discuss with students how information (or evidence) is often skewed—based on which data is used, what information is left out, and the particular manner in which data is visualized—is an excellent function of Many Eyes.
A closer look at one sample visualization of Arizona's American Indians.
A blog review (with links to other visualization tools).
Eisenberg, Anne. "Lines and Bubbles and Bars, Oh My! New Ways to Sift Data." New York Times, August 30, 2008. Accessed March 17, 2011.
Evans, Lisa. "Many Eyes: What Data do People Want to Visualise" The Guardian, March 17, 2011. Accessed March 17, 2011.
Byrne, Richard. "Many Eyes: Many Ways to Make Data Visualizations" Free Technology for Teachers, December 8, 2010. Accessed March 17, 2011.