What to Do?

I want to look in some detail at the task you have been set for your first piece of work. You have one more week to complete the still images and to place them online on flickr and link to your flickr account from your blog.

I am going to explore with you today a range of approaches that you could take with this first piece of work. To do this I am going to show you how other people are working currently in visualising data and also point you toward some of the tools, techniques or ways of thinking that may inform your own images that you make.

“We’re really close to the point where non-specialists will be able to find data online, ask questions of it, produce answers that bear on public policy issues, and share those answers online for review and discussion. A few more turns of the crank, and we’ll be there. And not a moment too soon.” Link


Telling a story, creating a narrative that matters to others as well as yourself

When choosing some data to visualise ask yourself a question: Does this matter to me? Is it an important part of my thoughts or experience? What does it communicate?

It might be argued that a good data visualisation tells a story it communicates in a way that we can understand and relate to. Remember the first example of data visualisation that we showed you. It was at Gapminder.org Although it is raw data from the UN it focuses on peoples lives and experiences in different parts of the world it allows us to compare our experiences where we are with other peoples experiences and life chances where they are. How long do people live? What do they survive on? And it tells that story in time.

Lets have a look at a Ted lecture with a Jonathan Harrison talking about one of his data visualisation projects.

Try out his online app at wefeelfine.org

Another similar app can be found at http://artport.whitney.org/commissions/thedumpster/dumpster.shtml This was commisioned by the Whitney Museum and Tate Online

Another interesting app is called newsmap which takes live news feeds from the web and displays them in terms of popularity and frequency.  http://marumushi.com/apps/newsmap/

All of these are fairly sophisticated and require some knowledge of programming and how to work with live feeds and to force them to display according to particular parameters. We are not expecting you to do this. We want you to choose some fairly simple statistics that have relevance for you and to display these statically as a series of stills in a flickr slideshow.

So what things might you choose to think about?

Personal Stats: collect your own data

  • Things you consume in a week, month, year?
  • Drink, Cigarettes, pizzas, etc
  • Petrol, electricity
  • money on food, entertainment, or just living
  • debt levels, week, month, year at end of course

How long you spend:

  • Watching TV
  • Listening to Radio
  • Listening to ipod or other
  • Working
  • Coursework

How you feel:

  • Relationships
  • Family
  • At particular times of the day, week, year
  • Hopes
  • Fears

All of these different types of personal stats could be compared to your friends or others on your course or in the module.

Non Personal Stats

Country, Continent, International

  • Literacy rates
  • Education Attainment
  • Divorces
  • Inequalities in wealth
  • Global Inequalities in wealth
  • Money spent on defence
  • Number of people in prison
  • Birth rates
  • death rates (life expectancy) in countries or different parts of the same country or even city

These are just some ideas that come immediately to mind, you, with a little thought, will be able to come up with many others. It doesn’t take much searching to find well regarded and detailed statistics.

Think about your day to day existence, think about things going on in the world. Soon after this lecture Barack Obama is giving his inauguration speech. You could use wordle to examine the frequency of the words used or a number of other tools to examine the breakdown of the words and ideas. Try to be imaginative and inventive.

Another text based tool form IBM is the Word Tree Guide

Wealth Gap in world cities.

Visual Guide to the Financial Crisis


How Might you work with Still Images?

A guy called Chris Jordan is currently working with still images and trying to use stills to visualise aspects of consumption the work he is creating is very US centric, but could easily be applied to our own or others consumption habits.

He speaks about his work, again at a recent TED conference.

Lets have  a closer look at some of his images.

prison uniforms

Although very simple ideas they work in a very powerful way in being able to make us take in the huge numbers that are being dealt with. When zooming into the image and seeing what it is composed of we understand the enormity of the things being expressed. The images in this sense are shocking because they only reveal themselves on closer inspection.

Even with your basic photoshop skills it would be possible for you to produce similar representations.

Possible Visualisation tools that you can use

Apart from Photoshop there are a number of ways that you can visualise. You can use screenshots of your online wanderings, you can take digital pictures, you can scan in drawings and images that you make or cut up from other sources.

You can begin to experiment with a host of fairly easy to use online tools for visualisation:

For your first Artefact we want you to use still images on Flickr and present them as a slideshow that communicates the information visually. You can tell a progressive story as the images change or you could show a variety of data related in some way. Remember the beginning of this piece asked the question about successful data visualisation is it because it tells a story. Always keep in mind the story that you are trying to communicate and keep it simple.

Radiohead Visual Data and realtime capture by scanning.

Have Fun

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3 Responses to “What to Do?”


  1. 1 stephenkerr January 23, 2009 at 10:46 am

    I cannot embed my slideshow, I have researched several ways to do it, but it wont let me, it keeps deleting my code.

    • 2 nicholasmid January 25, 2009 at 4:14 pm

      Yes – the embedding options on WordPress.com can be tricky – just link to the slideshow from your blogpost for the time being and we’ll look at better ways of embedding/integrating multimedia objects as the module progresses
      Nick


  1. 1 Convergence and the Music Industry « Futurecho’s Blog Trackback on February 22, 2009 at 11:45 pm

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