If you consume any political news or watch late night television, Congress has become the punchline of many an editorial or frustrated monologue. But does Congress really suck?

With a data visualization, Nikanth Patel, an Editorial Production Associate at The New Yorker, hopes to help people answer that question. Created in his time away from the office, Patel entered his latest data visualization project “Does Congress Really Suck?” in the BiCoastal Datafest sponsored by Columbia and Stanford Universities, where it won the “Best in Insight” prize.

By aggregating public data into a sleek and interactive interface, Patel’s project allows users to judge Congress through comparisons to past sessions, by following the money trail, and a real-time view of the public’s opinion of Congress on social media.

Why data visualizations? For starters, it makes information easier to consume. Since we have the technology to make data look sleek, even artful, and let readers interact with it, why not? Patel sees data visualizations as just another step in the evolution of the image. Reporters have used pictures, then video, to help tell their story. Why not data visualizations? As long as it’s in context, of course. Read more