Dan Schneiderman

Independent Study on D3

27 April 2012

So it has been a long while since I last posted here. During that period of time, I’ve redone my website (which I want to redo again), gone through most of my senior year at RIT, and have started my search for a job after graduation.

As I’m currently hanging out in Sunlight Labs the day before TransparencyCamp, I thought it would be the perfect time to post my independent study proposal. The below proposal was fully approved a few months ago and has been in the works since then. I was be presenting a decent chuck of what I have learned a produced tomorrow. After this post, I will be sure to post the presentation.

Independent Study Proposal on D3


I propose to learn the javascript D3 library though a series of visualizations based upon data from data.gov and the Sunlight Foundation.


The end result of the independent study will be a series of interactive visualizations based on multiple data sets on the topic of political science. The first week of study will be focusing on learning the D3 javascript through the tutorials provided on the site, reviewing svg, and how to handle AJAX calls. For the rest of the quarter, I will be producing three to four visualizations on various topics along with a short essay on their significance on a bi-weekly schedule. The first visualization will be based on a raw data set from data.gov. I have yet to pick a topic from the site. However, the site contains the largest amount of federal data sets available to the public. Currently, I am leaning towards a focus on either open government, internet outreach, or education as possible topics. My second visualization would be focusing on the Open States Project from the Sunlight Foundation. Currently, I am contributing to the Open States Project by writing python scrapers. This would provide me a better opportunity of being able to share the knowledge I have picked up as I have researched the different structures and hot topics between state governments while working on the project. For the third visualization, I will be using Twitter’s API to create a map with tweets from reactions to the GOP campaign. As this year is an election year, Twitter has been used as a main source to gather reactions on the opinions on campaign issues. Through a visualized map of tweets, a pattern of specific states’ issues should become visible.

If I have extra time after the first three visualizations, I would like to try to accomplish a way to visualize a timeline in history. This has been an interest of mine as I have gone through a number of US history classes for my political science major. From what I can tell, there are only a few decent visualizations on certain time periods within the country.

Web pages would be created in order to host all of these visualizations and the essays on the relevance to the topics. The web pages would also include a simple tutorial on each use of the D3 library for future research.


Over the past 4 years at RIT, I have become deeply interested in the combination of political science and information technology. This led me to the discovery of the double majors between the fields here at RIT. Since this discovery, I have had multiple co-ops focusing on bringing these two fields into practice. I have also noticed that in more recent years, technology has been used to visualize the ideas and practices seen in political studies in modern media. Specifically, the New York Times, Google, and CNN have created javascript visualizations to help people understand the details of what has been happening in the political world. I have been wanting to accomplish this independent study for about a year now. In order to prepare for it, I have made sure to take client side programming and data warehousing to make sure that I was ready.

This study will be the accumulation of all my skills that I have been building up and would be the perfect finish to my career at RIT.