Summer Thesis Thoughts – Version 8

July 27, 2008

I had to put some of this work on hiatus this week. I was involved putting together Macquarium’s company meeting presentation this week that consisted entirely of custom graphics and a slew of last minute work. Major time crunch, but it was a good opportunity for me to take the lead on a big project and put together a pretty nice portfolio piece. It had a fun theme with a ton of good imagery to play with and all in all, it came out exactly the way I envisioned it. Nice chance for me to push my previous design limits and take it to the next level.

In the meantime…

Mind-Full morning data collection is still in progress. I didn’t totally fathom the fact that individual data collection would be somewhat difficult. I have a decent amount of participants, but I could definitely use a few more. Nathan Yau, of FlowingData, suggested using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to gather more participants, although it does cost a small fee. I did this and have gotten a few participants through that. It’s definitely a cool service, and would be beneficial as last option participants – I don’t really want to have to pay a ton of $$$ for data, especially for smaller prototypes.

I’m taking a total plunge into Ben Fry’s Visualizing Data by O’Reilly Media. So far it’s been a great read for a beginner delving into data viz with some familiarity and experience in programming. Not that I have a ton, but I think I have enough to get something out of the book. Yes, yet again, I’m going to tackle Processing or attempt to, since the book’s examples and tutorials are all based in that environment. Should offer some good preparation for the fall.

I also purchased a slightly expensive, but useful hardcover Tufte book – Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative “about pictures of verbs, the representation of mechanism and motion, process and dynamics, causes and effects, explanation and narrative”. After reading Envisioning Information, I thought this was a good next step. .

This is a pretty interesting graphic on the USA’s religious belief’s and practices – not the most beautiful interface, but it sure does the trick!

Radiohead’s true visionary style really explodes by incorporating data viz into their House of Cards video:

…and you can even make your own visualization – definitely trying this out.

Two weeks ago I had a very successful mentoring session over the phone with my program’s director that really loosened any worries I have had about not having a secure concept yet for my thesis. Aside from completely understanding the direction I’m looking to go into, she suggested a great starting point for prototyping. I’m going to try to get about 20 people to participate in this venture over a week period of time to gather this particular type of data I need, and then try to create a pattern assessment or dirty data viz prototype from the data. The idea and results will be posted after this has been completed so stay tuned.

A few other things that were suggested are the following:

  • Read up on and contact Unified Fields, a company that designs beautiful interactive solutions to complex communications challenges involving a lot of data viz, such as the About.com wall installation at the IAC building.
  • Contact Ira Glass, of This American Life, since my overall topic focus has to do with stories, anecdotes that are interconnected in some sort of manner (such as the show does). Hm…hopefully I can somehow get up the ladder to have direct contact with him – would be VERY beneficial.
  • Contact two former DT students that have done work involving narrative bits of data
  • Read more Tufte!
  • Test prototype and do iteration

And lastly, if this isn’t enough inspiration at this time:
Ira Glass on Why Creative Excellence Takes Time


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