Google just released a great visualization tool for publicly available data, and it is AWESOME. You can play around with it here:
or read about it here:
I'm going to quote one line from the article. It says,
"While most of us won’t need this sophisticated of a tool on frequent occasions, it’s easy to see how this data could be extremely useful to researchers and those looking to understand the important trends that happen over time."
I'd actually argue that as tools like this make the visualization of large trends easier, it becomes something that SHOULD be mainstream. Right now the views of the general public are largely controlled by the mass media. We believe "rules of thumbs" and conventional wisdom, not because we don't have access to first source information, but because it's too difficult to wade through it. So we must trust secondary sources to tell us that "orange is the new pink" and that "universal health care blah blah blah blah blah." How do we find the truth amongst the spin? Hopefully tools that give us direct access to data will set us free.