We humans have relatively big brains, but in an age of information overload they are proving to be rather inadequate. In fact, they’ve probably been inadequate since we left our jungle enclaves and moved to the city. The infrastructures, their effects and the means of changing those effects has, since the birth of ‘democracy’ and the creation of the viaduct, been completely out of the general public’s realm of understanding. We let politicians and their tycoon buddies kid us that if we put a tick on a piece of paper and stuff it into a box once every three or four years, they would take care of everything. Our minds simply couldn’t grasp the enormity of national and global systems, so we gave up.
Now it’s time to wake up. Our overlords are as incapable as anyone else to fathom the machinations of our reality – after all, they are only human too. Enter data visualisation!
Finally (and not a moment too soon), we have a new way of seeing. Amidst the explosion of information, little people with tiny minds, about the size of our own, have created the tools to understand it. We can now see information – and we can ‘get’ it. This new perspective is at first stunning, a little mind blowing, and ultimately empowering. Once we can visualise what is going on, we can change it. No longer is anything out of sight and out of mind.
www.visualcomplexity.com proves that perhaps we have actually evolved to grasp information in such a way – since it truly is beautiful. These images connect the dots of our understanding. I keep returning here to gaze upon these amazing images that help form my version of reality.
You can’t go past Google Earth and in particular Google Earth Outreach – earth.google.com/outreach/showcase.html – to get a grip on what is happening on this ‘pale blue dot’ we call home. It’s sobering – and impossible to ignore, once you’ve seen it.
Much has been done to map the Internet itself, the ultimate beast of complexity. Go to images.google.com and search “internet map” – cool…
www.smashingmagazine.com/2007/08/02/data-visualization-modern-approaches is a large and well-chosen collection of awesome data visualisation samples and resources. Just following the links on this page will open up your Pandora’s box of wonder.
www.wefeelfine.org focuses on human emotion on a global scale. Empathy abounds. Co-creator, Jonathan Harris – www.number27.org – has a seemingly limitless imagination for ways to portray information – single-handedly creating a new art form which mashes up computer science, anthropology, visual art and story-telling.
Now we can see what is going on with our ‘global eyes’, it’s time to engineer the next logical step – real-time data visualisation activism. Watch it, click it, and watch it change. A Web 3.0 upgrade, perhaps? We’ll see…
An interesting initiative to orient students to the new world of open source computing, communication and learning… From their website:
'Lectures are boring and inefficient. Long hours spent studying hand-written notes is very 1994. Anyone graduating today needs to know not how to operate a computer, but when. The fault is both with the students and the teachers. HackCollege is changing education. HackCollege is educating the students of the world about effective, open source software, putting techno-political arguments in everyday language, and creating a cult of “Students 2.0.” If we can change the way 1 percent of college students and faculty in the world view education and technology, we’ve done our job.'