The Emoji States of America
May 17, 2017 1:39 PM   Subscribe

This visualization is a modified version of Chernoff Faces, a technique that maps multiple statistical values to the features of a face. Because it's 2017, we expanded on the technique and made Chernoff Emojis. Each part of the emoji is controlled by the state's ranking in a given metric, which range from the uninsured rate to the percent of adults who report getting enough sleep.
posted by Artw (7 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
"Vermont: The Massachusetts Where You Can Sleep Better"
posted by ardgedee at 2:34 PM on May 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yup, those were the faces I made when I lived in those states
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:18 PM on May 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

Kansas: fat, dumb and happy.
posted by sjswitzer at 5:24 PM on May 17, 2017

Chernoff Faces are terrible. I keep trying to work up the courage to use them in a paper. There is Stata and R code for it...
posted by blahblahblah at 5:42 PM on May 17, 2017

I first encountered them in Blindsight, where they are a little different:

He called the jargonaut to his quarters— and although it would be the first time I'd seen him since the attack, his summons carried not the slightest trace of doubt that I would obey. I did. I came on command, and saw that he had surrounded himself with faces.

Every last one of them was screaming.

There was no sound. The disembodied holograms floated in silent tiers around the bubble, each contorted into a different expression of pain. They were being tortured, these faces; half a dozen real ethnicities and twice as many hypothetical ones, skin tones ranging from charcoal to albino, brows high and slanted, noses splayed or pointed, jaws receding or prognathous. Sarasti had called the entire hominid tree into existence around him, astonishing in their range of features, terrifying in their consistency of expression.

A sea of tortured faces, rotating in slow orbits around my vampire commander.

"My God, what is this?"

"Statistics." Sarasti seemed focused on a flayed Asian child. "Rorschach's growth allometry over a two-week period."

"They're faces…"

He nodded, turning his attention to a woman with no eyes. "Skull diameter scales to total mass. Mandible length scales to EM transparency at one Angstrom. One hundred thirteen facial dimensions, each presenting a different variable. Principle-component combinations present as multifeature aspect ratios." He turned to face me, his naked gleaming eyes just slightly sidecast. "You'd be surprised how much gray matter is dedicated to the analysis of facial imagery. Shame to waste it on anything as—counterintuitive as residual plots or contingency tables."
I felt my jaw clenching. "And the expressions? What do they represent?"

"Software customizes output for user."

An agonized gallery pled for mercy on all sides.

"I am wired for hunting," he reminded gently.

posted by Artw at 5:53 PM on May 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you pick ecologically valid data (e.g. lack of sleep equals bags under eyes) then Chernoff faces work I guess?
posted by anthill at 8:04 PM on May 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I love the concept of Chernoff faces but the very thing that makes them clever makes them terrible. Humans have a lot of very-specific hardware wired for detecting facial expressions. It's a brilliant idea to use that hardware to convey data. But the specificity of how we process faces undermines any truth of data visualization. Eyebrows, for instance, convey complex and subtle emotional information distinct from the corners of the mouth. You can't just say "eyebrows are unemployment" and "mouth is poverty", it doesn't work.
posted by Nelson at 1:43 AM on May 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

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