"Tabulating DuBois": Historical Data Viz with gt |> Table Contest

"Tabulating DuBois" Recreating Historical Data Visualisations with {gt}

Authors: Jack Davison
twitter, github

Abstract: The 2021 DuBois Challenge ignited an interest in historical data visualisation for many in the R community. "Tabulating DuBois" aims to revisit the challenge using the {gt} R package, translating the style and spirit of DuBois' original plates into a modern tabular medium.

Full Description: This submission to the RStudio (Posit) Table Contest 2022 takes the form of eight tables which attempt to reflect the style and/or spirit of some of W.E.B. DuBois 20th century visualisations. It effectively revisits The #DuBois Challenge but using data tables as the medium instead of graphs.

All of the tables are "static" and built using {gt}, a powerful system for constructing beautiful HTML tables.

There are arguably three categories of tables in this study:

  • Tables which try to closely reflect DuBois' original plate (e.g., Conjugal Condition).

  • Tables which try to capture the spirit of what DuBois was trying to do, but translated to a table medium (e.g., Occupations of Black and White Americans...)

  • Tables which are effectively graphs/maps, and have been created to see how far {gt} can be pushed (e.g., Migration of Black Americans in Georgia)

While not all of these tables are as effective as the original plates, it is at least an interesting exercise to see how data storytelling can be effectively translated from one medium to another.

This submission is presented as a Quarto Website. This includes all eight tables, commentary on my approach to recreating the original plates, and some links about W.E.B. DuBois and the {gt} family of packages.

Language Notice: Images of DuBois' original plates are present on the website, many of which contain now-offensive terms in reference to people of colour. As the tables presented in this contest are inspired by DuBois rather than attempting to exactly recreate his work, these terms have been replaced by "Black" or "Black American", where appropriate.

Table Type: static-HTML
Submission Type: Other
Table: Tabulating DuBois
Code: GitHub - jack-davison/rstudio_table-contest_2022: Learning {gt} by recreating the works of W.E.B. DuBois. Entry for the 2022 RStudio (Posit) Table Contest.
Cloud project: RStudio Cloud
Languages: Built with R: true. Built with Python: false.
Industries: .
Other packages: gt, gtExtras, tidyverse


Very clean presentation. I'm not sure I agree with the premise of the competition, though. DuBois' visualizations are so unique and dynamic! Stripping these creative presentations down to tables makes them much harder to understand. I hope Posit is not taking a stand against novel and interesting ways to tell our data stories.

Oh I wouldn't worry, I don't represent Rstudio/Posit and I'm not taking a stand against anything! DuBois' original plates are a lot more vibrant and dynamic than any recreations as a table. This really is more of an exercise in whether any of his style can be recreated or reflected in tables, and to see how we can push {gt} to do unusual things (like make maps!).

If you'd like to see more faithful one-to-one interpretations or modernisations of DuBois' graphs you can see some examples in the original DuBois Challenge Write-up.

This is awesome! I love your use of those tabsets, showing off each table, original visualization, and your code.
You can see that some visualizations are more impactful and informative as plots (Furniture, plate 25 is one example), but all still tell great stories in table form. Very cool exercise.

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