Baychi 11/10

Baychi 11/10

Visualizations of Our Collective Lives
S. Joy Mountford, Osher Fellow, Exploratorium

The lines between art, design, and information are dissolving as we experience new places and objects. Consider, for example, the organic flow of air traffic over North America at daybreak, the bursts of search query memes spreading around the globe, and the pointillist surge of mobile phone usage on New Year’s Eve. Using the new techniques of generative data visualization, a new generation of artist/designers/engineer/scientists are creating gorgeous, dynamic experiences driven by massive sets of data about our own lives. Their work comes to life in architectural spaces, on walls of wood and metal and light and shimmering glass clouds suspended overhead. Of course it must be touched to be appreciated and engaged with, simple gestures launch a thousand images and possibilities. Many of these projects have received international recognition. They are primarily 3D applications that can run in real time, but really can only be appreciated by watching them, as movies. These data movies aim to make information easier to understand while being enjoyable to watch. Surprising insights surface through looking at our ‘data life’ in new ways, and may compel us to design in different, even better ways.


Joy started off the presentation with A bit about her years of experience. Joy was her usually witty self and was a “Joy” to listen to.

One thing that resonated with me early in the presentation was that “Things take a long time to change”. Which is reassuring for many people out there trying to make a change for the better at any company. – slant on social networking and data visualization. Sometimes accurate and sometimes not. Corrections by users and adding what really happened.

An artist that I had never heard of, Christopher Jordan was shown for a visualization. The visualization was both aesthetically pleasing and well as a social commentary. It is great to see such visualization with a message and social messages. Art can educate. Take a look at the series of images below. It was a series that Jordan did commentary on the number of breast implants and female body image.

What do you see? A impressionistic painting of a part of the female form?


What do you see now?


Closer still

Yes those are barbie dolls.

Barbie Dolls, 2008 – 60×80″
This art depicts 32,000 Barbies, equal to the number of elective breast augmentation surgeries performed monthly in the US in 2006.

Beautiful and sickening at the same time.

You can see his latest work on his site


Another key take away is that visualizations are about choices. How much or how little data can or should be shown to show things that they did not need to know but now that they see it – its interesting.

Do we have the tools to show data visually? Search is fully of rich data waiting to be discovered  but we need new tools.

Joy showed lots of great examples of compelling visualizaiton that can’t be shown here due. Some really amazing stuff.

Its interesting to think about how we can affect our environment, physically and interact with it either in a direct or indirect way. A blurring of art and technology really brings some interesting possibilities.



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