Data visualization artists use algorithms to mine data and represent it aesthetically.
[Note: Page numbers refer to pages in the book.]
For three months between October and December 2010, Erik Guzman’s Weather Beacon lit up the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center in New York City (p. 277 and Insert).
Guzman refers to Weather Beacon as an “oracle for the digital age.” This complex work of kinetic art merges wireless connectivity, industrial engineering, movement and light. Installing it was a work of work unto itself.
Weather Beacon is poetry in motion. The highly machined polished metal plates rotate while transmitting weather information from the internet using color coded flashing lights.
And Weather Beacon can even play music.
Flight Patterns was one of Aaron Koblin’s first projects. For which he turned to real-world generated data to reflect on the relationship between humans and the systems they devise (p. 293 and Insert). The video shows emergent patterns traced by thousands of flights including the outline of the United States.
Scott Draves took the name Electric Sheep from the title of Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (pp. 288-89 and Insert). When the computer is asleep, Electric Sheep comes alive. Computers (androids) with which it is in contact communicate with each other and generate (dream) elaborate abstract forms (sheep) that continually change. In Draves’s hands there is a give-and-take between aesthetics and algorithm.
Benedikt Gross looked for a way to visualize the huge amount of data on global warming (pp. 282-83). To do this he created Speculative Sea Level Explorer which was also a way to explore “alternative worlds” – a megacatastrophe – worlds way beyond what is normally predicted for global warming. See the link http://benedikt-gross.de/log/2013/04/speculative-sea-level-explorer/ where there are scenarios for several cities.
What is the best procedure for routing taxis so as to find the best pickup and dropoff points? At MIT’s SENSEable City Lab Gross worked with a team seeking the proper dispatch algorithm. They came up with HubCab which also provides insights into how the city itself works. Once again aesthetic patterns emerge from a highly informative representation of data.