Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Envisioning Our World

One of the great things about the rise of computer graphics is the way innovative people can represent the world around us.  Mere explanation hardly does the conceptualization of an idea justice -- it often takes an image or a video, well presented, to truly leave an indelible mark.

I was first presented with this powerful way at looking at the world through Aaron Koblin's TED presentation (below).  His remarkable analysis covers everything from flight paths and cell phones, to the "Wilderness Downtown" and the Johnny Cash Project.  Highly recommended if you have 20 minutes free.  Otherwise keep reading for more cool visualizations.

Next we have a short video from Kiva.org, a crowdsourced micro-loan website.  It shows the flows of loans from across the world from lenders to recipients.  It is called "Intercontinental Ballistic Microfinance."

YOUrban posted a visualization of WiFi networks throughout our society.  In their words, "the film is a continuation of our explorations of intangible phenomena that have implications for design and effect how both products and cities are experienced."  See their website for a more interactive look at the phenomenon.

More mundane things have been investigated as well.  Below is a visualization of wind maps from the National Digital Forecast Database.  Last week, NPR interviewed the two designers of the program that makes it all happen -- for a great, real time representation of wind patterns throughout the U.S., visit their website.

Blown Away

The next few come from deriving Netflix rental data.  In 2010, the New York Times put together a remarkable interactive graphic entitled "A Peek into Netflix Queues."  The other image is one derived for the 2009 Netflix Prize.  It was one competitor's representation of how movies should be categorized.

Pictures in Motion

Connecting Our World

Finally, our last image comes from a member of Disruptive Thinkers, David Pearson.  He and a team of his submitted an idea called "Swarm Transit" to a competition soliciting ideas for a 21st century public transit system in the Big Apple.  The image below shows the 19th century grid model on the left, and a theoretical, dynamic, water-based 21st century concept on the right:

"Roads?  Where we're going, we don't need roads..."

Images, like ideas, are incredibly powerful.  They capture the imagination, and help us understand our world a little better so we can continue to adapt to constant change.  Feel free to share more interesting visualizations you've come across!

1 comment:

  1. A few months ago I took a one day Edward Tufte course. His ideas on how to present data were amazing, you may have heard of his invention - sparklines. I used the Napoleons March poster as inspiration for a complicated funding process chart. If you can attend the course I highly recommend it, his website is - http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/

    While Tufte is more artistic I recently ran across a site for more practical applications, excelcharts.com. Great site for day to day applications and data visualizations.