Visualizing History

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Visualizing History

Visualizing history is Hans Rosling’s 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes film. They never taught history like this when I was in school!

From the BBC:

This is a documentary which takes viewers on a rollercoaster ride through the wonderful world of statistics to explore the remarkable power thay have to change our understanding of the world, presented by superstar boffin Professor Hans Rosling, whose eye-opening, mind-expanding and funny online lectures have made him an international internet legend.

Rosling is a man who revels in the glorious nerdiness of statistics, and here he entertainingly explores their history, how they work mathematically and how they can be used in today’s computer age to see the world as it really is, not just as we imagine it to be.

Rosling’s lectures use huge quantities of public data to reveal the story of the world’s past, present and future development. Now he tells the story of the world in 200 countries over 200 years using 120,000 numbers – in just four minutes.

The film also explores cutting-edge examples of statistics in action today. In San Francisco, a new app mashes up police department data with the city’s street map to show what crime is being reported street by street, house by house, in near real-time. Every citizen can use it and the hidden patterns of their city are starkly revealed. Meanwhile, at Google HQ the machine translation project tries to translate between 57 languages, using lots of statistics and no linguists.

Despite its light and witty touch, the film nonetheless has a serious message – without statistics we are cast adrift on an ocean of confusion, but armed with stats we can take control of our lives, hold our rulers to account and see the world as it really is. What’s more, Hans concludes, we can now collect and analyse such huge quantities of data and at such speeds that scientific method itself seems to be changing.

Click one the links for more information about Hans Rosling and his videos.

Visualizing history with Hans Rosling helps gain perspective on all of our genealogy research.

For another great interpretation of history over time, see the Rand McNally 1931 Histomap.

About the Author:

Nancy Loe has an MA in American History and an MLS in Library Science and Archives. She has appeared on PBS’s American Experience, at Rootstech, SCGS Jamboree, and state and regional genealogy conferences. Her website was featured in Family Tree Magazine's “Social Media Mavericks: 40 to Follow.”

One Comment

  1. Janet Iles 4 December 2010 at 11:02 AM

    It is a fascinating demonstration of social and economic history in the different countries of the world and how things have changed over time. Thanks for highlighting it.

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