Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice

2014 Edition
| Editors: Gerben Bruinsma, David Weisburd

Visualizing Data: A Brief History

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-5690-2_647


This essay describes the benefits and uses of data visualization. It provides an overview of its history, from the pioneering work of William Playfair to the more recent Web-based activity.


Among the many attributes of the criminal justice system, one that stands out is the sheer quantity of data it generates. Since Western governments do not (generally) have secret arrests, trials, or imprisonments, almost every transaction is recorded in some database, most of which are computerized – and large. And these databases, although subject to restrictions on privacy and confidentiality, are (generally) open to public – and researcher – scrutiny and analysis.

Analyzing these data sets can be very useful, to look for patterns in offender and offending characteristics and to determine the effect of different policies on outcomes. As the criminal justice system focuses more and more on “evidence-based” policies, developing practical methods of analyzing these large data...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Criminal Justice Research CenterThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Emeritus, Department of Criminal Justice and Department of Information and Decision SciencesUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA