Million Dollar Blocks: Political Design


Million Dollar Blocks was a project by Spatial Information Design Labs at Columbia University. Using data from the US criminal justice system, they approached data visualisation in a much more thoughtful and effective way.

Where others’ instinct was to create heat maps of high crime areas, so the more privileged could avoid them, or misdirect finance towards gentrification; the folk at SIDL visualised in a much more effective way.

Million Dollar Blocks visualised the specific people who had been incarcerated and highlighted the blocks and areas where they came from.

“The United States currently has more than 2 million people locked up in jails and prisons. A disproportionate number of them come from a very few neighborhoods in the country‚Äôs biggest cities. In many places the concentration is so dense that states are spending in excess of a million dollars a year to incarcerate the residents of single city blocks. When these people are released and reenter their communities, roughly forty percent do not stay more than three years before they are reincarcerated.”

With this mapping, you could see how much each block was costing the taxpayer and it quickly became obvious where taxes could be spent with much more effectiveness.

An excellent example of Political Design over Design for Politics.

URL: Million Dollar Blocks
BOOK: Adversarial Design by Carl DiSalvo

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