También disponible en Español

Inf@Vis!

The digital magazine of InfoVis.net

Massacre in Madrid
by Juan C. Dürsteler [message nº 142]

The March 11th tragedy in Madrid has given rise to a cataract of information (and of emotions) some of which have been converted into visual representations that bring us closer to the what and the how of what has happened these dreadful days. 

I’ve been considering for a long while about whether to write, or not, this article about the visualisation of the information we have about the terrorist massacre that occurred in Madrid last March, 11th. 

On one hand it seemed to me too cold to start thinking about the technical aspects of the visualisation of this execrable event when so many families are destroyed right now. On the other hand it was very difficult to imagine this week’s newsletter related to something apart from this sad fact that has moved all of us and, in my personal case, caught me on one of the few days of the year I spend in Madrid, something that has made me feel even closer and more committed.

Finally I’ve decided to write it with the spirit that it served, if this is possible, as a humble contribution to the homage that so many people and so many families, that have seen their future irrationally cut short by a brutal and incomprehensible terrorism, deserve.

Such a cruel and massive attack as the one we have lived through these last few days has multiple facets. All of us are trying to extract information that allows us to understand how it happened, what effects it has had and what effects it will have, since it’s doubtful that we will ever be able to understand why someone can carry out such an outrage.

The events have been covered widely by the Spanish media, which have some of the best teams of information graphics and visual journalism worldwide. Among them you can find the teams of newspapers like “El Mundo”, “El País” or “La Voz de Galicia”, all of them awarded for their excellent graphics and animations. 

Most of the animations that I have had the opportunity to see follow the same layout: a map of the zone of Madrid where the attacks took place showing the evolution of the trains on their journey to Atocha’s railway station, the other railway stations where they stopped and the macabre result of the explosion in each and every train.

The excellent animations of “El Mundo” are maybe the most complete among the ones I’ve seen. “El País” animations, that can normally only be seen by subscription, opened its electronic edition for two days in which we could see slightly simpler animations but with logical sequence similar to that of “El Mundo”. “La Voz de Galicia” showed an animated graphic in its on-line edition, less complete than the two former ones but still very effective. In any one of these animations it is very easy to quickly understand the sequence of events along with their tragic consequences.

ElMundoMapa.gif (105607 bytes) ElMundoMapa2.gif (126680 bytes) ElMundoAtocha1.gif (147376 bytes)
ElMundoAtocha2.gif (185781 bytes) ElMundoPozo.gif (274651 bytes) ElMundoPozo2.gif (252778 bytes)
ElMundoStEugenia.gif (240848 bytes) ElMundoStEugenia2.gif (227114 bytes) ElMundoTrenes.gif (72102 bytes)
Some  screenshots of the animation appeared at El Mundo as they can be seen in its website. Click on every image to enlarge it.
Source: El Mundo.
ElPais2.gif (76866 bytes) ElPaisAtocha.gif (67387 bytes) ElPaisPozo.gif (55063 bytes)
ElPaisStaEugenia.gif (47476 bytes) ElPaisSosp.gif (32979 bytes) ElPaisTrenes.gif (37759 bytes)
ASome  screenshots of the animation appeared at El País as they could be seen in its website during the two days that it was freely available. (Normally you have to subscribe to see the contents) Click on every image to enlarge it.
Source: El País.
EkstraBladetLund.gif (340335 bytes) LaVozGMapa1.gif (136439 bytes) WashPostMapRed.gif (114159 bytes)
The map of the attacks, made by the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet  The mas seen by "La Voz de Galicia" The map according to  "Washington Post"

More difficult to do, to our opinion, and also more difficult to find has been the visualisation of the civic response of the people of Madrid and of the rest of Spain, that supplied the lack of blood supply, with massive donations that quickly made it necessary to stop the donations because of an excess of donors. 

In this regard there’s an interesting page that appeared in the paper edition of “La Vanguardia”, that summarises the blood donations made in Spain on Friday 12th along with information about the impact of the massive demonstrations against terrorism, the drop in the usage of the railway and the decrease of energy consumption during the 15 minutes of silence to honour the victims that took place at 12 a.m. on Friday in the whole of Spain.

LavanguardiaDiaDespues.jpg (124417 bytes) ElPaisTanatorio.gif (1133483 bytes)
Infographics of "La Vanguardia" (Saturday, 13) with a summary of informationa about the solidarity with the victims of the attacks. Explanation appeared in "El País" fo March 1rth about the funeral home improvised in the faclities of the IFEMA fair grounds in Madrid.

Finally, “El País”, in its Saturday 13th edition, publishes an information graphic with several panels that capture the process of identification of the deceased by their families, supported by psychologists, social workers, forensic scientists and scientific police experts. Especially frightening is the bluntness of the last panel that makes use of the ISOTYPE techniques (invented by Otto & Marie Neurath in 1924) to show the people found dead in a row of 199 bodies, 153 in black (the identified ones) and 46 in white (still without identification). 

There are, of course, more information graphics both in domestic and international media, some of which can be seen in the excellent web site about visual journalism VisualJournalism.com maintained by Gert K. Nielsen.

Information Visualisation brings us closer to understanding the who and the what of this massacre, in a way that still surprises me for the ease with which we can understand not only the most numeric and “cold” aspects but also the real tragedy of so many broken families.

The “why” of this savage deed belongs, in my opinion, to the sphere of irrationality since it’s difficult to understand –with or without visualisation how someone can leave a bomb in a train loaded with normal people, young and old, students and workers, disappearing quietly while the lives of many families become destroyed. Families that, whoever the authors, had done nothing against them.

I would like to find a proper visualisation to help us understand that at this moment in time, when not only corporations but also terrorists become global, where mobile telephony serves to communicate with our loved ones but also to perform “selective killings”, that there’s no need to have anymore dead, anywhere and for any reason. 

These last few days Madrid is all of us.


I beg the readers, that could possibly contribute information graphics or references to the same, related to this topic, to send them either as a file or as a URL address to webmaster@infovis.net with the objective of completing the infographic memorial of this sad event.

Links of this issue:

http://www.elmundo.es   Website of the Spanish newspaper El Mundo
http://www.elpais.es   Website of the Spanish newspaper El País
http://www.lavozdegalicia.es/   Website of the Spanish newspaper La Voz de Galicia
http://www.elmundo.es/documentos/2004/03/espana/atentados11m/grafico_atentados.html   Animation about the attacks by El Mundo
http://www.lavozdegalicia.es/archivos/atentado_atocha/index.jsp   Animation about the attacks by La Voz de Galicia
http://www.lavanguardia.es:8000/13_03_2004/pol/vb13161po14m1inf.jpg   Infographics "El día despues" by La Vanguardia
http://www.lavanguardia.es   Website of the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia
http://www.visualjournalism.com/photopost414/showgallery.php?cat=1&password=   Some related Infographics
http://www.visualjournalism.com   VisualJournalism.com
© Copyright InfoVis.net 2000-2014