Data Visualisation or; How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love America [UPDATED]

Interesting lecture about Data Visualization this week.

One of the more recent data visualisations I came across in my everyday life was this one, showing downloads of the NIN album “The Slip” around the world. The use of data visualization seems pretty self evident; converting information into a way that is more easily understood given the specifics of our visual and mental perception.

One thing I this has lead me to think of is the common idea that people use as an argument for the existence of God . They say that the world around us seems like its specifically made for us humans to engage with, perceive and understand. Of course the counter argument is that actually the world is specifically made for insects, cockroaches and diseases.

Anyway, my thoughts were that actually humanity could be…[insert gap of 3 days]…only a stepping stone to something else. Quite why this has any relevance to this topic, I can’t remember. I think I was trying to get at something like…we manipulate the world, but we are being manipulated by our use of technology.

Just found another one about remix culture. This one is interesting in terms of music remixing and there is also a visualization of creative commons distribution/licenses. Seems like Spain has the largest number of CC licenses per capita at the time the date was gathered.

I was really interested in the We Feel Fine project. The visual aspect is really nice, some great little touches like the swirls interaction with the mouse. I don’t know if its just my preconceived notions of Americans, but watching the video presentation on TED.COM by Jonathan Harris, I just had this flash of….”why?”. There was this air of self-congratulation about the whole project, especially the Time Capsule Project, which was beamed up into space; somthing that seems a bit excessive, and speaks to me of the tenancy for American’s to confligate their experiences and achievements as the epitome of humanity. Having said that:

The presiding message of the Time Capsule is: “One World. Many Voices.” The piece attempts simultaneously to express the differences between individuals, and to illustrate the shared ground between people of all ages, races, backgrounds and cultures.

At a time when there are human beings living in filth an degradation, I wonder what they would think about the whole thing. The feelings of a child prostitute on the streets of Marrakech are a million times more worthy, in my eyes, than alot of the things I’m seeing on the site.

The title of the Harris’ other project Universe, relates to what I’m talking about. Browsing the feelings on We Feel Fine, I got the sense that the majority of the content was sourced from North America. This is obviously a reflection of the raw data out there on the internet, but I was left with a kind of aftertaste……..who cares about this? On a networked media/technological scale, yes it is really interesting and really well done, but these other issues really come to mind. American Cultural narcissism etc….Perhaps its the language used on the site, or the highly personal nature of most of the content. I actually quite like the site, thought I think that there are way to many possible feelings on their list.

I see a direct contradiction in the We Feel Fine project on this level, and the Gapminder data visualization about world statistics. Hearing Has Rosling talk against this type of Euro/Anglo-centric world view was really refreshing. In this day and age where the common citizen is being asked to contend and participate with large complex issues, the value of this type of data is crucial. The problems, as Hans says, is getting the data out there into the homes and schools and institutions of the world.

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~ by hieronymusix on September 25, 2008.

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