Little Britain – exploring populations

Our crowd visualisation research is progressing as we continue to explore ways of helping people see themselves in statistics. Recently we built an experimental tool for looking at population statistics. For those who have seen the book: If the world were a village, the idea is similar. 

(Also available:  full-size Population Explorer)

The book asks you to imagine 100 people who live in village whose population maps directly to the global population and tells you, for instance, that 9 speak English, 24 have a television and 17 cannot read. Population Explorer allows you to choose the size of a community – it doesn’t have to be 100 people, it can be a number more meaningful to you – and then it maps the British population to that. For instance, you could choose the size of your school or workplace or housing estate and see what that population would look like if it matched the British population as a whole. How many people would be in full-time employment? How many would be Jewish? How many living in poverty? Etc.

We will add more statistics to Population Explorer soon including education and housing. We also plan a global version that works in a similar way. Later we will add other ways of visualising the crowds to better see distributions (for example - the distribution of ages in the population). Later still we will add the ability to explore individual parts of the country right down to the level of census ‘Output Areas’ – the lowest geographical level at which census estimates are provided. But we have more interesting plans also.

Little Britain

What if we scaled the rest of the World in the same way we scaled the population? That is, what if we also scaled the land, the natural resources, the financial resources? If the population of the Great Britain were just 100 people but we had the same area of land per person, the same number trees per person what would this ‘Little Britain’ be like? It turns out that the whole country would have an area of 36 hectares (0.36 km2). That’s the same area as a square 600 x 600 metres. The urban area would be 4.4 hectares. The area per household in Great Britain and Little Britain alike is 0.9 hectares – equivalent to a square 95 x 95 metres.

There would be just under 6,000 trees in a Little Britain with 100 people. The distance between Scilly and Shetland (as the crow flies) would be 1.6 km (the actual distance is 1,270 km).

The total wealth in a Little Britain with 100 people would be £17,600,825. £7.0m would be in pensions, £6.2m would be in property, £2.5m would be financial wealth (money) and £1.8m would be physical wealth (things). There would be 40 households in a Little Britain with 100 people. The richest household would have £3.6m (over 20% of the total wealth).

When we get a chance we will extend Population Explorer to give insight into land and resources interactively. Look out then for:

  • More statistics in the basic tool
  • A global version of the basic tool
  • Visualisations of distributions as well as simple crowds
  • Ways to explore the populations of very specific areas
  • ‘Little World’ – a way to explore national and global land and resources through populations
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