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Creative thinkers and professionals from around the globe gathered at Haverford College from July 13–17, 2009 to envision the dashboard for the Planet Earth. Here is some of what they were thinking about.

UN Earth Dashboard

“A dashboard is a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives; consolidated and arranged on a single screen so the information can be monitored at a glance.”
Stephen Few, Information Dashboard Design

The world has a critical need to see itself as one interconnected whole rather than disparate countries, cities, tribes, cultures, religions or special interests. Without this unitary view of intertwined fates, the parochial trumps the planetary, narrow self-interest bests enlightened self-interest, greed beats generosity— and the world is endangered through short-term and near-sighted thinking and actions. The lessons of history lead to the conclusion that humanity might not survive if these negative conditions win out.

Because of the interconnections of science, technology, economy, culture, environment, problems and options— and the intertwined fate of all life on board “Spaceship Earth,” there is a critical need for a tool similar in purpose and function to a vehicle’s dashboard. An Earth Dashboard is needed so that everyone from UN Representatives and world leaders to students and the general public can get an easy-to-understand fix on the condition of their ship, its resources, problems, crew and passengers. Because we are now, more than ever, one world, we need a one-screen dashboard type of display that shows us the key indicators of our ship. Because of the size and complexity of our ship, an Earth Dashboard also needs to be able to zoom in from the whole Earth to the local and to do so in a way that shows links between levels.

If the world had such a dashboard, and this dashboard was available in a highly visible and credible public (and web) location where all could get access and see it, the dashboard would function as a critical source of global visualization. Those viewing the dashboard will come away with an increased and more tangible sense of the whole world, its interrelations, problems, and options. If this dashboard is interactive and involves the viewer, its power and impact will be even greater.

The UN Earth Dashboard and its web-based version will be a place where people come from around the world to see what is happening right now on the planet. This will be done through a series of live, real time meters, gauges, trends, maps, maps in time series, viability thermometers and alarms (among many other data visualization techniques) that transform UN statistical data into exciting visualizations. These historical data sets will be supplemented with live feeds from web cams, satellite images and other sources.

EarthGame, Inc., the United Nations Department of Public Information, and their collaborators, will design, build and maintain the large-scale (10 meter by 2.5 meter) high definition UN Earth Dashboard video wall for and at UN Headquarters in New York and on the web.

Making the world visible—Interactive data visualizations of key global indicators: increasing transparency, understanding and informed action

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