Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mapping information

(image from Guardian, and found posted on Francesco Mugnai's blog which also contains other diagrams that are as interesting and varied in terms of the data and audience)
Going by the present day complexity of information, and the datascape born out of such vast information-static, it isn’t surprising that info graphics / data visualizations have become important fields that take up the responsibility of dataxonomy of this networked society.

(Facebook's friend wheel application generated my social network)
The diagrams are maps of information, relation and network of different things communicated based on easy readability of graphics and ability to generate clear analysis, for example the Facebook's friend-wheel application created by Thomas Fletcher, which uses links between various Facebook profiles to generate a diagram that shows various 'friendly' linkages within your Facebook-social circle. If one adjusts the outcome to be shown as a heat diagram one can see which of your friend is friends with maximum people in your circle (besides you, some do get confused with that).

(Greater London's Spatial Accessibility Model developed by Space Syntax)
The applicability of data visualization on the built environment has very well been proved by the growing demand for GIS software but one such practise that is able to actually use this empirical data for analysis and logic of intervention is Space Syntax started by Bill Hillier in 1970 (through a research programme in the Bartlett, UCL). Space Syntax uses on ground data of pedestrian-vehicular movements, frontages, road widths, landmarks, etc to create diagrams of accessibility, efficiency, crime etc. This spatial analysis gives rise to key challenges for the intervention and also ability to test the design through simulated data tests of the new circulation and behaviour the intervention would generate.

(Mark Lombardi's Sociogram pencil drawing found here)
In the field of Arts, I found some interesting work by artist Mark Lombardi (1951 - 2000) which deals with Sociograms of George W. Bush, Harken Energy and Jackson Stephens (drawn around 1999) as neat pencil drawings of network that connects global capital, oil and weapons trade, backed by loads of research and access to information that he was able to enjoy as the curator and director of museums and general reference librarian for Fine Arts department in Houston Public Library. The work is clean and extremely powerful, no Meta narratives or any post-structuralist abstractions of angst ridden paint strokes but only clear objective information map. But this does not mean there is no space for subjectivity, the subjectivity comes from the choice of subject and the logic of graphics selected to communicate a singular clear analysis.

(print spreads from Jonathan Jarvis's The Crisis of Credit Visualized animation as available on his website)
Another name that comes to my mind is of Jonathan Jarvis an interaction and media designer, whose video The Crisis of Credit Visualized as explained on his website, "distils the economic crisis into a short and simple story by giving it form. It is also argues that designers have the ability to see a complex situation, then turn around and communicate it to others. By giving graphic form to the credit crisis, it becomes comprehensible. Not only do economic activities take shape, but new relationships can emerge between these shapes". For people unclear about the credit crisis and animation lovers alike this video is a very good watch. The no frills simplicity maintained in the animation reminded me of the good old days of Doordarshan educational animations like Ek Chidiya, Simi Machli and Tree of Unity cartoon that spread principles of socialism.
In Architecture work by OMA & AMO on different global statistics, networks and diagrams is interesting and the data represented is able to build an interesting picture of the world we live in. But I am not sure if the Post modern point of view to pollute the structural dialecticism is out of choice or just out of need of Rem Koolhas's practise.
As my sense of affiliations constantly sway between need for subjectivity (as in my previous post on Peter Doig) and objectivity in my present post, I feel it even more important to be strategic about these two 'weapons of choice' based on the context that we seek to intervene in. Ofcourse these two polarities are constantly polluting each other but the consciousness of the nature of final result as being objective with certain subjectivity or subjective Meta narrative based on certain universal objective truths is an important choice. It is about knowing if one wants to author A City of Slums or a Shantaram. But with cities and our struggle to map them we can never be sure...

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