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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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USGS Astrogeology Research Program: West side of the moon

USGS Astrogeology Research Program: West side of the moon

30gms just posted a link to the work of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Research Program on mapping the Moon. The maps are based on data from lunar missions in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and show the geological composition of the lunar surface.

The maps are visually stunning in their abstraction. The many craters become clusters of colors, giving the appearance of a complex composition. The palette is striking and chosen for contrast, but avoiding primary color clichés. Interestingly, both the colors and composition make the maps somewhat reminiscent of the work of Joshua Davis. Compare for instance with his light box images for OFFF.

The USGS site generously offers digital downloads of the maps in a variety of formats. The PDF versions are full vector quality, and are amazing to look at in high resolution. Would-be astrogeologists should check out the USGS Planetary GIS Web Server, a project with the charming acronym PIGWAD.

USGS Astrogeology Research Program: West side of the moon

USGS Astrogeology Research Program: West side of the moon

 
Simon Elvins: Mapping sound

Simon Elvins: Silent London (detail) / Notation

Simon Elvins is concerned with sound as an ubiquitous force. Through a series of projects he has been documenting how sound is an often ignored dimension of our physical environment. Silent London plots quiet spaces in the English capitol using noise level data. An embossed print shows quiet areas raised up from the paper, bringing them to the attention of the viewer, while noise areas become blanked out valleys. noisy areas raised up from the paper while quiet areas become blank areas of peace. His FM Radio Map serves a dual purpose. On the one hand it plots the physical locations of commercial and pirate FM radio stations broadcasting in London. But circuits conductive pencil lines placed on the back of the map also turns it into a physical interface. Using a modified radio the map can be aurally “navigated” by placing metail contacts on points on the map.

These projects are poetic but ultimately functional. Taking a conceptual design approach (Elvins studied Communication Art & Design at the Royal College of Art), they present numerical data in an aesthetic context. By choosing low-tech materials (paper, electronics) Elvins creates fragile objects whose material qualities belie their sophisticated technical content.

Parallel to Elvin’s interest in sound is his fascination with mapping of physical and intangible forces. Both the aforementioned projects are classic mapping projects, while Notation is a more abstract exploration of how sound can be represented visually as marks on paper. Reminiscent of experiments with graphic notation (see Eno etc), the project consists of studies of representations of tonal patterns using pencil on paper.

The Notation project page seems to indicate that these drawings can ultimately be used to produce sound, but no details are available. If so, it would be an inversion of Elvin’s excellent Paper Record Player, where he constructed a functional record player out of paper, complete with its own conical paper amplifier.

(Thanks to TomC. See also Mount Fear.)

 
McGrath & Watkins: Manhattan Timeformations

McGrath & Watkins: Manhattan Timeformations

Manhattan Timeformations is a project from 2000, by architect Brian McGrath with designer Mark Watkins. It maps lower Manhattan in time and space, creating a layered historical model of geographic and economic data. It received an award of distinction from Ars Electronica, and was displayed at the Skyscraper Museum in New York.

“Manhattan Timeformations” is a computer model which simultaneously presents a layered, cartographic history of the lower half of Manhattan Island, and an exploded time line chronicling the real estate development of high-rise office buildings, which constitute the skylines of Midtown and Downtown Manhattan.

The web site gives a limited documentary preview without much chance of interacting with the data model. The model can flown through in 3D as well as rotated etc., but only in a prerendered manner. Still, the exploded views of the different layers indicate the potential inherent in this presentation.

Jutta Zaremba wrote an article titled "The skyscrapers of New York in the media arts", in which Manhattan Timeformations is touched upon. It is available from the V2_Archive.

 
Pietro Speroni: Delimind

Pietro Speroni: Delimind

Tags have become so popular, they have become an object of scientific study. The new term folksonomy describes "a practice of collaborative categorization using freely chosen keywords". It’s called folksonomy because it’s taxonomy turned on its head. Instead of a group of experts classifying everything according to strict rules (as in biology), folksonomy is classification by end users according to their subjective view of the world.

Pietro Speroni has posted some interesting notes on folksonomy and tagclouds on his blog (which, not surprisingly, is heavily tagged). But he doesn’t just write about tags, he writes software about it too. His Delimind software will make a nice mindmap of your del.icio.us links, grouping related tags. He has made the Python source code available too.

And if you still want to know more about tags, have a look at Tagsonomy, a blog just about tags…

 

It’s cute, it’s nerdy, it’s irresistible. It’s Google Moon, a modification of Google Maps created to commemorate the July 20th, 1969 lunar landing. Try zooming in all the way to see what the moon is really made of. And it’s that not enough knee-slapping geek humor for you, check out their job listing for the Google Copernicus Centre.

As long as Google pulls stunts like this they will keep their position as the Non-Evil Empire. Now if only Microsoft or Nike had a sense of humor…

 

Liveplasma is an interesting site which uses data from Amazon to map connections between related artists (currently music or film). The site is still in beta, but the visual maps are easy to read and aesthetically pleasing.

Naturally, due to the fuzzy nature of the underlying data, strange results can easily occur, the same way you might sometime get strange recommendations on Amazon. Users can register in order to designate artists as “favorites”, but this doesn’t seem to offer much real functionality at the moment. It would be interesting if Liveplasma could use the users’ favorites as a complementary input to the Amazon data.

For those of you with good memories there was a non-commercial pioneer project online back in 1995 which also mapped similarities between artists. Unfortunately, the name of the project escapes me. It allowed users to register artists and albums and rate them. It would then try to match input from different users and suggest new artists that might be of interest. One can only imagine what that idea would have been worth if it had been properly dotcommed…

 
Art+Com: Terra:vision

Art+Com: Terra:vision

Google has announced a new service called Google Earth, providing a coherent interface to satellite imagery that allows you to “surf” the earth and look at information mapped directly on top of it. Microsoft is hot on Google’s heels with their MSN Virtual Earth, set to launch in July 2005 providing similar features. With any luck, there will be ways of hacking with these services.

Interestingly, electronic artists did this over 10 years ago. The German group Art+Com created a project called Terra:Vision way back in 1994, featuring a large adaptive-resolution satellite image database, streaming of data sets over the internet, fully interactive VR flyovers and mapping information to geographical locations. Back then it needed a Silicon Graphics Onyx to run, these days it could probably be ported to a high-end PC.

 
Jun 30/05
19:26
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Network deviousness is a poetic-sounding geographical term defined as follows:

In spatial analysis, network deviousness is the discrepancy between the lengths of the actual routes in a network and the straight-line distance between the places linked up. For any pair of places on the network it can be measured by the detour index. The detour index is a measure of how directly movement may be made on a network. It is calculated as the ratio of the shortest actual route distance between a given pair of nodes and the direct, straight-line or geodesic distance between the same two points.

From the Mapping Hacks book by Schuyler Erle, Rich Gibson, Jo Walsh. Description attributed to technical reviewer Edward Mac Gillavry.

 
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:

 

Google has just released a public API for their Google Maps service. There have been a number of unauthorized Google Maps hacks posted online (notably GCensus, HousingMaps and Geobloggers), but with the launch of an API developers are granted more stability and legitimacy to their efforts.

In the past Google has released an API for their search engine, allowing non-commercial developers up to 10000 requests per day. Even though Google’s reason for releasing them is its continued quest for world domination, these APIs allow independent hackers to play with some powerful technology. No doubt Yahoo, MapQuest and others will follow suit and provide some welcome competition. Update: Yahoo has released documentation for their Yahoo! Maps Web Service.

Historically, access to good maps has equated to the possession of power, and the geoinformation industry has been a top-heavy field dominated by governments and military organizations. With Google Maps the growing locative media community have access to a large map database to do great things with, even if it’s just to play Pac Man on the streets of Manhattan.

For some in-depth reading, check out the books Google Hacks (by Tara Calishain, Rael Dornfest) and the newly released Mapping Hacks (by Schuyler Erle, Rich Gibson, Jo Walsh).

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