Friday, July 24, 2020

New project: What if all COVID-19 victims were your neighbors?

The latest project I've art-directed for the Google News Initiative is titled No Epicentro (“At the Epicenter.”) It asks: what if all confirmed COVID-19 victims in Brazil were your neighbors?

No Epicentro has just been published by our media partner, Agência Lupa, and was developed by data journalists Tiago Maranhão, Rodrigo Menegat, and Vinicius Sueiro, with advice from Marco Túlio Pires.

No Epicentro is available just in Portuguese for now—there'll be an English version soon,—but you can run it through an automated translator, and it's very easy to understand anyway (Update August 3: the project now has an English version.). Learn more about the project in this article and in the making-of; the data and code are free to download.

Our goal was to make data feel a bit more personal: 93,000 people, the number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Brazil at the moment of this writing, is a cold figure, something that makes the scope of the tragedy hard to grasp—please read Numbers and Nerves to learn about “statistical numbing”. But what if we force you, the reader, to imagine those 93,000 as people you know, see every day, or interact with?

Begin by typing any address in Brazil. This was mine when I lived in São Paulo:

No Epicentro then reveals more than 93,000 white dots—again, the number of COVID-19 deaths at the moment—inside a circle with your address as the center. The visualization uses census track data, so every white dot represents a person living around you; therefore, if you are in a densely populated area, the circle will be small, and if you are in the countryside, it'll be larger:

At any point you can generate a customized infographic with the map of the region where you live to share in social media:

Next, the visualization compares the number of COVID-19 deaths to the population of a city that is near you. In my case, it's Rio Grande da Serra. If all deaths had happened there, this city and some of its surrounding areas would have been wiped out:

No Epicentro ends with other comparisons, and it shows where COVID-19 deaths have actually been registered in Brazil: