Tracking Politicians' Careers and Positions with Technology
One of the best-known principles of geometry says that if two points are on a plane, the line that passes between those points is also on the same plane. Data visualization platform Cargografías applies this concept to politicians' careers, allowing voters to trace the path of candidates running for public office from their first political move to their most recent.
Cargografías structures this information on a timeline that lets you see, at a glance, the elected and non-elected positions held by various political leaders, divided by executive or legislative functions. The platform features different filters, letting you view information by the public officer's region of influence, the positions held or length of term.
The results provide valuable information both to voters and journalists covering politics or elections. The visualizations are not just simple graphic resources: they’re also able to show issues like “testimonial candidacies," (in which the main leaders or figureheads of a political party are put at the top of the list of candidates, but have no real intention of taking office if elected) and election winners who immediately took long periods of leave.
The idea of Cargografías was born in 2011, when graphic designer Andrés Snitcofsky remembered a period of civil and political unrest in Argentina which gave birth to the popular slogan “They must all go!,” meaning all politicians must resign. “Where have all those politicians been until now?” wondered Snitcofsky.
With that question in mind, he defined the platform's concept and, during a Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires hackathon, a team of journalists, programmers and designers developed the site's prototype and later finalized the first version of the application in time for Argentina’s legislative elections in 2013.
Various media have used the platform, particularly during election times. Digital magazine Animal Político tried it during last year's elections in Mexico. Cargografías also received invitations from several Latin American countries to present the project, and it’s positioned as a platform with a high growth projection, expanding into new countries and adding new features for visualizing information.
Moreover, the team stopped using the old manual system of adding data and began to forge agreements with organizations that can provide more data while certifying its validity, as is the case with fact-checking site Chequeado, with which they held a productive "checkathon" to vet candidates for the latest elections in Buenos Aires.
The database already includes more than 2,400 Argentine politicians and more than 4,500 public positions held. Free access to the tool is guaranteed and the code of the platform is available to anyone who wants to use and improve it.
Snitcofsky said that "the success of the platform has to do with its iterative logic. Constantly testing and retesting it with the community and thinking about the next steps after learned lessons, combined with the contributions of HackLabs and MySociety, proved to be the right path for sustainable growth.”
This article originally appeared on HacksLabs’ blog, a platform to accelerate data-driven journalism projects. It was republished on IJNet, which is produced by ICFJ.
Cargografías is a grant recipient of HacksLabs, a project of ICFJ Knight Fellow Mariano Blejman.