Dataviz: A ‘Joy Plot’ about Joy Division

Note: On August 3, 2019, Spotify Insights will be no more. But all the data stories you’ve come to enjoy will be available in Spotify’s newsroom, For The Record. Head over to the site not just for data insights, but also cultural trends, how-tos, artist interviews, and more. Want to stay on top of all our latest news and stories? Follow us on For The Record’s Twitter feed, @spotifynews.

You’ve likely seen the iconic album art from Joy Division’s 1979 album, Unknown Pleasures on T-shirts, tattoos, and online. You might also know that the image represents a data plot of eighty successive radio pulses from the first known pulsar, reproduced from a diagram appearing in the January 1971 issue of Scientific American magazine by Jeremiah P. Ostriker.

Not only did this artwork capture the world’s imagination, it also inspired a new type of graph. In April 2017, Jenny Bryan coined the term ‘joy plot’ to describe data visualizations done in this particular style.

To contribute to this data visualization trend in the most meta way we could, here’s a tongue-in-cheek ‘joy plot’ about Joy Division itself, depicting not radio pulses from a quasar, but rather 80 successive days of Joy Division streams on Spotify in the band’s home country of the UK. Without labeled axes and descriptors, you won’t gain much insight into how people listen to the band. But as a joy plot of Joy Division, we think it’s interesting in its own right.

To learn more about this oft-reproduced image, see Adam Cap’s research, perhaps while listening to the album:

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