I spotted this post on Health Infographics on Mashable, the social media news and trends blog. It's an good article on its own. The data visualizations are generally clear, interesting and beautiful and it certainly made me think twice about my vitamin C dose. The obesity chart is the exception as it is a challenge to understand and, like so many popular visualizations, looks to have been selected on aesthetics alone.
However, the big question it throws up is why is Mashable showing this kind of data visualization at all?
In fact if you search through the site they quote data and data sources all over the place. A large part of this is because social media is generating for the first time real-time mass opinion polls. For example, take a look at this Google Buzz reaction-ometer. Twitter, Facebook and the Blogosphere are no longer used for a qualitative glance at how your business is doing, but PR managers are turning the text into data and digging out some really interesting trends. Catherine Warren explains this phenomenon clearly here.
But that still doesn't explain this article as it has no relation to social media.
I think the article is a sign that data is becoming cool. Real, hard data is slowly permeating every part of the web from visualizations of twitter usage to interactive analysis on news sites. Even governments are splashing their data up on the web. With all the hype being generated about the semantic internet and the sea of data emerging from social networks, perhaps Mashable just don't want to miss the wave.