Chapter 5. Data

Data is an extremely broad term, only slightly less vague than the nearly all-encompassing information. What is data? (What isn’t data?) What kinds of data are there, and what can we use with D3?

Broadly speaking, data is structured information with potential for meaning.

In the context of programming for visualization, data is stored in a digital file, typically in either text or binary form. Of course, potentially every piece of digital ephemera may be considered “data”—not just text, but bits and bytes representing images, audio, video, databases, streams, models, archives, and anything else.

Within the scope of D3 and browser-based visualization, however, we will limit ourselves to text-based data—that is, anything that can be represented as numbers and strings of alpha characters. If you can get your data into a .txt plain-text file, a .csv comma-separated value file, or a .json JSON document, then you can use it with D3.

Whatever your data, it can’t be made useful and visual until it is attached to something. In D3 lingo, the data must be bound to elements within the page. Let’s address how to create new page elements first. Then attaching data to those elements will be a cinch.

Generating Page Elements

Typically, when using D3 to generate new DOM elements, the new elements will be circles, rectangles, or other visual forms that represent your data. But to avoid confusing matters, we’ll start with a simple example and create a lowly p paragraph ...

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