Visualization of the Week: Dialect Survey Maps

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New tools for big data visualization are popping up all the time, but rarely do they attract such wide spread attention as the Dialect Survey Maps application which became the most-viewed story last year at The New York Times. The app was written in R and exposed on the web using Shiny (hosted for free on RStudio’s servers). Just click on the link above to see a long list of dialect difference across the country – how do you say the last vowel in “hankerchief”, or what do you call the box you bury a dead person in, or what is the distinction between dinner and supper? All these questions and many more can be examined with this app.

The sample dialect survey map below is for the question “do you use the word cruller?” In case you don’t know, a cruller is a type of pastry. I thought this survey was particularly interesting because I was standing in line at Starbucks one time and an elderly woman in front of me ordered a “cruller” and the barista had absolutely no idea what she was asking for. The woman had to point out a “glazed doughnut” in the display case. From the visualization below, I’ll bet that there would have been no problem if we were in New Hampshire.

Shiny is a cool tool that allows you to take R code and publish it as a web app.



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