A New Baby Boom Poster

26 February 2020

I wanted to work through a few examples of more polished graphics done mostly but perhaps not entirely in R. So, I revisited the Baby Boom visualizations I made a while ago and made a new poster with them. This allowed me to play around with a few packages that I either hadn’t made use of or that weren’t available the first time around. The most notable additions are Rob Hyndman’s suite of tidy tools for time series analysis and Thomas Lin Pedersen’s packages ggforce and patchwork.

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Workshop materials are available here: https://rstd.io/conf20-dataviz Consider buying the book; it’s good: Data Visualization: A Practical Introduction / Buy on Amazon I was delighted to have the opportunity to teach a two-day workshop on Data Visualization using ggplot2 at this year’s rstudio::conf(2020) in January. It was my first time attending the conference and it was a terrific experience. I particularly appreciated the friendly and constructive atmosphere that RStudio so clearly goes out of its way to encourage and sustain.

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Cleaning the Table

10 November 2019

While I’m talking about getting data into R this weekend, here’s another quick example that came up in class this week. The mortality data in the previous example were nice and clean coming in the door. That’s usually not the case. Data can be and usually is messy in all kinds of ways. One of the most common, particularly in the case of summary tables obtained from some source or other, is that the values aren’t directly usable.

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Reading in Data

9 November 2019

Here’s a common situation: you have a folder full of similarly-formatted CSV or otherwise structured text files that you want to get into R quickly and easily. Reading data into R is one of those tasks that can be a real source of frustration for beginners, so I like collecting real-life examples of the many ways it’s become much easier. This week in class I was working with country-level historical mortality rate estimates.

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Dogs of New York

28 October 2019

The other week I took a few publicly-available datasets that I use for teaching data visualization and bundled them up into an R package called nycdogs. The package has datasets on various aspects of dog ownership in New York City, and amongst other things you can draw maps with it at the zip code level. The package homepage has installation instructions and an example. Using this data, I made a poster called Dogs of New York.

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Recent Work

  • Data Visualization: A Practical Introduction. Princeton University Press. Buy on Amazon Abstract
  • “Transformative Treatments.” Noûs 52: 320–335. Abstract  pdf
  • “Visualizing the Baby Boom.” Socius 4: 1-2 Abstract  pdf
  • “The Plain Person’s Guide to Plain Text Social Science.” Abstract  pdf
  • “By the Numbers.” European Journal of Sociology (2017), 58:512-519 Abstract  pdf

Current Teaching


I am Professor of Sociology at Duke University. I’m also affiliated with the Kenan Institute for Ethics. Read a brief overview of my work or my Curriculum Vitae.



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