Data Mapping/Visualization Critique: German Unification

I found the project “German Unification: A Nation Divided” as part of Medium.com’s list of best online storytelling and journalism presentations of 2014.  The project dived into data to find out how divided East and West Germany are 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  The most interesting aspect of the project is what variables the creators used to find the differences – including economic disparity, gun ownership, travel destinations, average age, and most interestingly (to me), language.  Shown in the graphic below – the names used for “stapler” in different parts of Germany.

Germany

What makes these visualizations so interesting – and the entire point of the project – is showing how these differences divide exactly along where the Inner German border once was, showing how each region incubated its own culture and social trends during the 50-odd years which have yet to dissolve (or, in fact, may have been exacerbated due to domestic migration patterns – leaving older people in the East and the younger generation in West).

The graphics themselves are very aesthetically pleasing, made with the typical kind of European minimalism.  There are also a few other types of graphics and videos that further illustrate the differences between East and West Germany.  It’s obvious that a lot of work went into making this project.  I can’t even imagine how hard it was to find the data to begin with, and then compiling it into a usable form before presenting it.

Overall it was a very effective presentation that showed what it set out to prove: that Germany is still very much divided along borders that disappeared 25 years ago, between West and East, and the long lasting impact this artificial construct has had on local societies, cultures and languages.  I’d be interested to see an update in 25 years to see if it changes at all or remains almost the same.

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