Tuesday, March 3, 2009

music that makes you a lil bit stoopid

The Wall Street Journal and Pitchfork reported on the latest project from 25-year-old Caltech grad student Virgil Griffith, which correlates taste in music with intelligence. Griffith gathered his data from Facebook, collecting the "favorite music" inputs listed in individual profiles and plotting that information against the average SAT score of the associated school. The results? Puzzling and hilarious.

How it's possible for Dispatch fans to be smarter than Modest Mouse fans, or Counting Crows fans to be smarter than Beck and Bowie fans...or for Ben Folds fans to be smarter than Beatles fans... I will never understand. It's purplexing. And laughable. What's maybe funnier (in a sad sort of way) is that enjoying the stylings of Lil Wayne probably means you have a tiny lil brain with an SAT score somewhere in the neighborhood of 889, while Radiohead fans, like myself, have large, bulbous, pulsating, radiating brains and SAT scores that average around 1220. The truly gifted are geeking out on Beethoven, with an average score of 1371.

Pitchfork reporter Tom Breihan makes some interesting observations:
"You could point out how these results indicate how hopelessly Eurocentric the SATs actually are, with the whole chart practically cleaved in half between black and white artists. Or you could argue that really smart people don't necessarily brag about their musical tastes on Facebook, or that when they do list musical tastes they usually just try to out-obscure each other by naming individual guitar solos or whatever."
As far as the output itself, the map uses various elements to graphically display information: from color to scale and relational placement. While the x-axis refers to SAT scores, there's some room to tighten this graphic up visually and conceptually by utilizing the y-axis and cleaning up the taxonomy a bit. Reebee Garofalo's The Geneology of Pop/Rock Music is a true gem and a great example of a successful music infographic.

Check out the Sign Language blog for more on visual information maps.

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