Data Is Plural

... is a weekly newsletter of useful/curious datasets.

2019.05.08 edition

Global food, Canadian candidates, visual questions from blind people, Chicago murals, and southpaws.

Food, globally. The United Nations’ FAOSTAT provides dozens of country-by-country datasets on agriculture. The datasets include crop and livestock production, imports and exports, fertilizer usage, emissions, and more. Many go back to 1961. (In that year, Afghanistan harvested about 32,000 metric tons of apricots.) Related: Researchers have previously used this data to trace the “increasing homogeneity in global food supplies” over time. Also related: National Geographic’s visualization of that research. [h/t David Svab]

Canadian candidates. University of Montreal PhD candidate Semra Sevi has compiled data on all Canadian federal candidates from 1867 to 2017. The dataset lists each candidate’s gender, occupation, incumbency status, party affiliations, birth year, and electoral results. The tens of thousands of candidates have represented roughly 140 parties. Among them: Canada’s Work Less Party, which has fielded one lone federal candidate, who in 2008 received 1% of Vancouver East’s votes. [h/t Éric Grenier + Peter Loewen]

Visual questions from blind people. A decade ago, researchers built VizWiz, a smartphone app that allowed blind users take photos and ask questions about them. For instance: “What color is this?” or “When is the expiration date?” Now 20,000 VizWiz images and questions, plus 200,000 answers, are available to download — part of a contest to develop algorithms for visual question-answering. Related: Be My Eyes, an app that lets you volunteer your visual assistance through a video call.

Windy City murals. Last month, Chicago officials launched a public mural registry. So far, the database includes more than 140 pieces, credited to more than 100 artists. About half of the entries specify the mural’s medium (e.g., paint, spray, mosaic) and nearly all indicate the mural’s location and installation year.

Southpaws. Using data scraped from and, Thomas Richardson analyzed “over 13,800 professional boxers and mixed martial artists of varying abilities” and has found “robust evidence that left-handed fighters have greater fighting success.”