Art from code - Generator.x
Generator.x is a conference and exhibition examining the current role of software and generative strategies in art and design. [Read more...]
 
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Levin / Nigam / Feinberg: The Dumpster

Golan Levin with Kamal Nigam and Jonathan Feinberg: The Dumpster

This seems a fitting post with which to celebrate both Valentine’s Day and the end of a 3 week holiday-induced blog silence:

The Dumpster is a visualization of the romantic lives of American teenagers. Extracting breakup-related blog entries from millions of blogs, it charts them along a chronological axis with text excerpts and relevant data like age and sex of the poster. The blog entries themselves are visualized as a pleasantly pastel cluster of bubbles, falling from the top of the screen and percolating to the bottom.

The Dumpster bears some similarities with Golan’s earlier work Secret Lives of Numbers, which was shown in the Generator.x exhibition. It utilizes the same time axis and pixel grid navigation device for accessing the many nodes. The project description claims that the Dumpster reveals “underlying patterns of these failed relationships”, although this is hard to quantify. There is a “Match” data field shown for each entry, this could indicate a match against other entries. Another possibility is that it represents how well the text matches some text pattern used to identify blog entries dealing with romantic breakups.

But even if the numerical relevance of the visualization seems slightly impenetrable, the Dumpster charms the viewer with endless text excerpts demonstrating the banal beauty of love. Despite the large number of entries there seems to be practically no false positives, just endless teenage musings. And given the impeccable timing of releasing it on Valentine’s Day, you can’t fault it.

The Dumpster is a joint commission from Whitney Artport and Tate Online. Along with Turbulence these portals are becoming serious spaces for the creation and publication of more complex online works. Given the difficulty of exhibiting net-based art in a gallery context, even modestly paid commissions become a major incentive for the creation of new work. At the same time, it allows museums like the Tate and the Whitney to dabble in “experimental media” without committing to showing it in their physical spaces.

 
Even Westwang: From Sites to Flows

Even Westvang: From Sites to Flows

Social networks are the bomb. You get intimate details on interesting people, you digg news stories, social bookmarks are del.icio.us and trackbacking is the new black. Any day now, you’ll be asking yourself: Dude, where’s my web site? All I have are these feeds and flows…

That’s the question Even Westvang posed in his lecture From Sites to Flows: Designing for the Porous web at the University of Oslo: “Do I still have a website, or do I maintain a series of f!ows in an ecology of services?”

Even recently helped start a new social network in Norway called [underskog.no-http://underskog.no], so he has lots of opportunity to ponder these questions, and better yet, what does it mean for designers. Graciously, Even has shared his thoughts as a downloadable PDF on his Polarfront site. Licensed with a Creative Commons license of course. It’s all very Web 2.0.

Even also spoke at the Generator.x conference about his Nomen Nominandum project.

 
Name: Project

Dr.Woohoo: Color Analytics

With Flash 8, Flash is increasingly becoming a tool for serious visualization. Doug Marttila (lead designer at Visual i|o) has started a blog called The Forest and the Trees to evangelize this combo. As he says: “Data visualization can make the world a better place. Really.”

Marttila’s blog is only a little over a month old and a bit thin on content yet, but he does have some wonderful links. One of them is a color palette visualization called Color Analytics, using the new pixel capabilities of Flash 8. It allows the user to browse through a large database of paintings and see statistical analysis of the colors used in the paintings. It even provides links to other paintings with similar palettes. The piece is an experiment from Dr.Woohoo Brothers, a New Mexico interactive “boutique”.

See The Forest and the Trees for more Flash visualization links. (via dataisnature)

 

The new VisualComplexity site seems to have been an instant hit, with everybody and their sister linking it. Is data visualization ready to hit entertainment mainstream? Will Ben Fry find a welcome side income from publishing posters that will adorn the walls of teenage abodes? Will budget art book publisher Taschen soon produce a glossy coffee table work on infoviz?

Perhaps not. But it’s interesting to note that News.com has added two visualization oldie goldies (the treemap and the associative network) to their traffic-driving sidebar. Such a move would have been considered daring only a few years ago. After all they make their money from page clicks and can’t afford to lose any. So it follows logically that they assume that using dynamic visualizations rather than lists of headlines will drive more traffic. Knowing the internet business, they’ve probably done usability studies on it too.

That diagrams are beautiful can’t be denied, though not always intentionally. On his tecznotes blog Michael Migurski posted a reference to this visually attractive 1981 visualization of flight traffic density between different cities. In low resolution it looks like a street art piece by the London Police.

 

Peter Merholz has blogged his notes from a lecture that Martin Wattenberg recently gave at UC Berkeley. Martin charted early experiments in visualization, and talked about his works like History Flow, Apartment, Name Voyager and more.

 

Toxi has tipped us off to a new and impressive information visualization resource. Visualcomplexity.com is the brain child of Manuel Lima, who is also the author of the BlogViz project. The site intends to be “a unified resource space for anyone interested in the visualization of complex networks”, an ambitious and applaudable goal.

Currently it indexes 150 visualization projects, ranging from the artistic to the scientific and grouped by type. All projects are listed with a short description, authors, links and sample images. There is also a submission form, so send in your projects or corrections to the information listed.

Originally from Portugal, Lima did a MFA in the Design+Technology program at Parsons School of Design in New York, realizing BlogViz as part of that work. He started Visualcomplexity.com after being frustrated by the lack of online resources about information visualization. The project is a labour of love, so help him with info or even send him a donation (link available from the About page.)

 
Lisa Jevbratt: 1:1

Lisa Jevbratt: "1:1"

Martin Wattenberg: Shape of Song

Martin Wattenberg: Shape of Song

Databases, seismic data, Computed Axial Tomography scans, Mozart’s symphonies, the first 1000 prime numbers: All these are large data sets containing patterns hidden from view unless presented in a human-readable form. With the increasing power of personal computers it is now becoming possible to visualize data sets that previously would have been inaccessable to anyone but researchers with access to old-school supercomputers. As a result, information visualization has become a fruitful new field of aesthetic exploration.

The theorist Lev Manovich posits that mapping one data set into another is one of the principal operations of computing. He argues that art projects like Carnivore and Lisa Jevbratt's "1:1" produce profound emotional responses despite their being essentially data visualizations. Where the Romantic artists were concerned with the sublime and the un-representable, data art is concerned with making representations of phenomena previously invisible.

On the more pragmatic side of things, designers are employing computational techniques to escape traditional 2-dimensional representations. The results are dynamic software visualizations of complex data like genome structures, version history in documents with multiple authors or power structures in American corporations.

Information visualization theory references:

Some projects & people:

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