visualization

A Visualization of Urban Collective Memory

I am currently working with Jason Hsu, organizer of TEDx Taipei, and Edward Shen, recent MIT Media Lab graduate, on a data visualization project aiming to document urban memory in Taipei. The project began with a dialog Jason and I started at TEDActive in Palm Springs earlier this year. Jason recently wrote a blog article comparing my earlier work Pastiche with Jonathan Harris’ We Feel Fine.  As the project progresses, I will continue to post updates here. Below is a proposal that captures my initial thoughts on issues the visualization might seek to address.

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Visualization and rhetoric redux

Organizational Chart of the House Democrats’ Health Plan

Organizational Chart of the House Democrats’ Health Plan

A chart depicting the health plan proposed by the House Democrats has recently come to the forefront of the media. It is hard to overlook the rhetorical bias of this visualization—with almost comical overstatement and unnecessary visual complexity it depicts the proposed heath care system through a flow chart consisting of an entangled mess of arbitrarily-colored nodes, positioned with seemingly little rationale. Designed by the office of Rep John Boehner, it makes its rhetorical intent abundantly clear to any conscious observer.

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Three New York Times visualizations

Mapping Foreclosures in the New York Region

Mapping Foreclosures in the New York Region

Given that the New York Times Graphics Department is a winner in this year’s National Design Awards, it seemed opportune to look back at some of its recent work. Over the past few years, the Times has published many excellent interactive visualizations as counterparts to the equally brilliant static information graphics found in the paper, including the previously mentioned 31 Days in Iraq by Alicia Cheng. Each interactive is predicated upon a hypothesis and the evidence that supports it. Here, visualization is treated as a medium for journalistic inquiry by creating an editorial framework for the data on display.

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Mapping—symbolism or realism?

Mapping seems to float between two poles—symbolism and realism, or abstraction and dimensionality—as the attempt is made to either (with increasing accuracy) simulate a landscape or environment, or interpret it as a sign or composite of signs. At first glance, the former could be considered the predominant direction—technology leading the way in the gradual displacement of the latter. However, not only are both vectors alive and well: realism has been an ongoing pursuit in mapping as long as symbolism, and symbolism is equally seeing a new resurgence due to technological developments.

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The relationship between mapping and data visualization

The relationship between mapping and data visualization is somewhat ambiguous and generally ill-defined. In most cases, the two concepts are inextricably linked, and the terms mapping and visualizing are often used interchangeably. Yet, after some reflection it seems apparent that the two concepts are indeed distinct, that there are differences, and defining both in relation to each-other seems somehow imperative to understanding the territory.

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