By: Bernadette Samson

We love data because we’re total geeks at Reset San Francisco, but XKCD webcomic artist Randall Munroe has out-geeked us with this infographic that shows how powerful data can be. Munroe’s “Money” infographic visually depicts money in various denominations and grouped through its various sources — the wealth of the top 10 billionaires, an average American household’s income, the costs of consumer goods and even the amount (in US dollars) of the “proven” capacity of oil reserves, among others.

The zoomable XKCD infographic on money allows us varying perspectives on money — from the microeconomics of a household’s expenses and individuals’ electronics purchases to the macro of all macroeconomics of whole nations’ debts.

Better Visualization of Information Leads to Widening of Perspectives

xkcd-money-infographicAt Reset, we often praise the benefits of data visualization. Being able to see data in terms we can understand rather than simply as rows and columns in an Excel sheet makes it more accessible and, most importantly, easier to understand the grander scheme of what it all means. As shown in the XKCD infographic, data visualization gives us a wider perspective on the data we have collected — much like California Common Sense’s work to take local San Francisco open data and make it accessible for all San Franciscans with its transparency portal.

For example, the XKCD infographic shows how much money $10 from each US resident is ($3,326,200,000). That compared to the amount of US debt ($10.2 trillion) really puts our taxes and economy into perspective. What is beautiful, both conceptually and aesthetically, is that this really shows us our individual impacts (seemingly non-existent) and our combined impacts (incredibly great). In addition, visualizing the immensity and sources of our governments’ expenditures in comparison to what we put into it can help us assess our civic return on investment in various government projects. This in turn can help us make better, data-driven decisions about what policies we support. For example, when Munroe points out that we spend almost the same amount on cancer treatment as on cigarette purchases, it really brings to mind our need to analyze what investments have better returns.