I've been playing around in the last few days with free visualization software, trying to think of ways to create interesting visualizations for my dictatorships and revolutions class next year. Some of it is quite impressive but few free packages seem to be able to do a temporally animated map (where color values for a country change year by year, for example, according to regime type), at least not in a way I can easily figure out. I eventually found this free alternative (openheatmap) that is easy to use and renders fast, though it has few options.
Here's a map of authoritarian regime types, 1946-2002, using data from Jennifer Gandhi's book "Political Institutions Under Dictatorship" (thanks to Prof. Gandhi for kindly sharing her dataset):
(Click here for a larger version. Yellow means "civilian dictatorship," red means "military dictatorship" and blue means "monarchy.")
The map isn't perfect: you need to code the Soviet Union as Russia and East Germany as Germany, for example. I suppose with professional GIS software and a good set of shapefiles you could have the borders move as well, but hey, this is free and fast.
Now, what I would really like to see is a map of regime types that displays a little picture of the dictator as it plays and a little flash (accompanied by a sound of guns, perhaps?) when there is a coup.
Any suggestions for free visualization software able to do animated maps?