The Information Architecture Institute
A conference on designing
complex information spaces of all kinds.
New York City, October 4 and 5, 2007

The visualization confab: Stamen design

Michal and Eric kicked off what should be dubbed “the morning of visualization” with a series of interesting visualizations from their work at Stamen - These guys have a huge advantage, presentation-wise, as all there stuff makes for instant demos. They started with moveon.org, which was philosophically similiar to the Local projects work, that aimed to bring people together. It was easy to see in works like this how putting things in a visual context, one as colorful and inviting as the one they designed, changes the nature of dialog and radically simplifies complex data. The isolated feel connected, and the connected can see the impact of the work they’re doing.

They followed up with demos of their work on San Francisco cabs called cabspotter, mappr (a flickr based visualization), and digg labs. Cabspotter (pictured above) reminded me of a spartan koyaanisqatsi, converting time into images and making technology seem organic. (Although Not sure how to use this if I’m waiting for a cab, other than to distract me from the wait?)

The last project they showed was from digg labs - a visualization of how news items get noticed, shared and publicized in the openly democratic digg system. While certainly fascinating to watch, I couldn’t help but ask what questions this sort of data would help answer: I suspect these visualizations mean signifigantly more to the community of digg reporters, than outsiders like me. Not that I didn’t want to watch this for hours anyway. I left these demos thinking of them more as models, rather than as applications: what other kinds of data sets can you plug into these visualiations, and what new meanings would you find? I don’t know, but I sure am curious.

Scott Berkun

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