Visualisation of Activity in Afghanistan using the Wikileaks data from Mike Dewar on Vimeo.

Found this information map video about the war in Afghanistan this morning (on the NYT Technology page). Created by a group students and programmers from Columbia Engineering, New York University and Princeton, it shows activity in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2009 and maps the “logged events” recorded in the military documents that appeared on Wikileaks in the past month (July 2010).

As the Times noted, it is missing many references to seminal events and does not include more highly classified information, but the visualization shows surges of activity over this five-year period, growing drastically as the war progresses.

Watching it, the first thing that came to my mind was that it shares an astounding similarity to those medical slides that show how a cancer grows in the human body over a period of time.

Call me hippie or whatever - we all heard that wars are bad, wars are like a disease, wars destroy countries, etc - but when you start putting it this way, stepping away from the dirty combats, sorrow and deaths, when you start visualizing it from a higher perspective, there's no way around it. That's just what wars look like.

The programmers describe the map as follows:

"The intensity of the heatmap represents the number of events logged. The color range is from 0 to 60+ events over a one-month window. We cap the color range at 60 events so that low intensity activity involving just a handful of events can be seen — in lots of cases there are many more than 60 events in one particular region. The heatmap is constructed for every day in the period from 2004-2009, and the movie runs at 10 days per second. The orange lines represent the major roads in Afghanistan, and the black outlines are the individual administrative regions."