Art made of storms


Nathalie Miebach discusses ‘art made of storms’ on July 2011 in Edinburgh Scotland. The video begins with string instruments playing for the audience and Miebach then exhibits and explains a scientific art piece that is representative of weather. She claims that “Weather is an amalgam of systems that is inherently invisible to most of us.” She uses sculpture and music to illustrate it in a visual and audible way.

She explains her creative processes and the techniques she utilises to create her artworks. She uses simple materials to extract information from the environment before comparing them to online data. Miebach then uses a basket that are made of both vertical and horizontal elements, to illustrate at least three variables. For example, moon and sun data and hours of the day. She uses natural read as it has “a lot of tension in it” and she cannot fully control it. Therefore, she allows external factors to control the sounds, not herself.

Each element of the basket represents something different and she uses allocates certain elements of music to represent weather data such as humidity, temperature, barometric pressure and wind direction. It is a three dimensional weather visualisation.

Nathalie Miebach aims to challenge the audience and discusses “what kind of visual vocabulary belongs in the world of art, versus science.”


Miebach’s string instrument 

Visualising ourselves with crowd-sourced data


The speaker in this video is “Aaron Koblin.” He states that our lives are being driven by data and that it has the opportunity to “create great stories.” He exhibits a range of projects that he has been working on in the past couple years that he believes reflects our lives.

Koblin’s first piece of work that he projects on screen is based on flights in America, that involve variables such as colour coded altitudes and a lively time lapse of monitored airplanes flying across the country. The second project illustrates International communities and how New York communicates with other cities. The third project visualises SMS messages being sent in the city of Amsterdam where the audience can view the fluctuations of messages over the year. The fourth project is called “sheep market.”

He then discusses a couple other projects where he asks people to imitate small segments of a song, artwork and animation as best as they can. He then puts them altogether and shows an image of the final result, such as the “Johnny Cash project.” Although he doesn’t show the entire video, he shows the first ten seconds of it and shows videos that show feedback from people and their thoughts on the project.

He finishes the video by stating “An interface can be a personal narrative device. And as we collect more and more personally and socially relevant data, we have an opportunity, and maybe even an obligation, to maintain the humanity and tell some amazing stories as we explore and collaborate together” and asks for the audience to take away this message, after his speech.


Koblin’s SMS visualisation 

How to build an information time machine


The speaker in this video is Frederic Kaplan and he educates the audience through a step by step process of how he intends to “build an information time machine.” He addresses that as we delve deeper into the past, the less information we have. Therefore, like historians, we must “extrapolate.” For example, a single journey of a captain would represent that a similar journey was taken by several others.

He then suggests that two variables that are needed are “large archives” and “excellent specialists.” Venice has a rich history and has always been held by a bureaucratic system where information has been recorded. There are currently 80km worth of records held. It is difficult to digitalise hard copies however, through translation, qualifying and quantifying, this is all possible.

Kaplan advocates at the end of the video that “Research in the humanities is about to undergo an evolution that is maybe similar to what happened to life sciences over 30 years ago. It’s really a question of scale. We see projects that are beyond any single research team can do and this is really new for the humanities. We need to foster a new generation of digital humanist’s that are ready for this shift.”


Kaplan at TED talk 

Art that looks back at you


TED speaker, Golan Levin is an artist and a software writer. He advocates in the video that we should use our digital tools to express art. Not just with our mouse and desktops but he suggests, with our bodies. His artwork resembles mirrors and he creates an installation called “interstitial fragment processor” which is an interactive artwork that heightens an individual’s awareness of negative shapes.

He talks about a phenomenon known as “phonaesthesia” which is a form of synethesia that most people have. The phenomenon is the way in which people associate different sounds with images. He also creates an installation based on this and it allows for individuals to ‘see’ the shapes of the sounds they make into a device.

Levin also discusses how people can relate to machines with their eyes and asks the audience a question, “what if art was aware that we were looking at it?” and “how could it respond in a way to acknowledge or subvert the fact that we were looking at it?” and “what if It were possible that I can look back at us?”

He also has created a project based on this called “eye code” which is an interactive project where “the trace left by the looking of the previous observer looks at the trace left by the previous observer.” It is a recursive operation system that records eye movements, in between blinks.

The last project he discusses with the audience is called “opto-isolator” and “snout.” While they are slightly different projects from each other in regard to size, they both include one interactive eye ball that interacts with the audience.


Interactive installation by Golan 


‘Art made of storms’ is a fascinating and unique project, as it is something I have never seen before. I like that the aesthetic of it is modern and is an art piece but is also a musical score and representative of scientific data. The sculpture itself is abstract and visually engaging. I admire that Miebach has combined seemingly unrelated sources to create something different and expressive of her passions.

‘Visualising ourselves with crowd-sourced data’ was a video I found highly engaging. Koblin is talented and I admire the way he expresses data through an interactive interface. While Koblin discusses several of his projects, the one I most admire is the Johnny Cash one. I don’t know much about the singer personally but it was touching how over 250,000 people contributed to the artworks of the animation. I like that it is personal and I think that it is the perfect song and a wonderful way to commemorate and honour his life. I ended up watching the full version of the clip after the lecture and It has been inspiring to me. I found it an intriguing and engaging way to combine interactivity and illustration together to create a personal and memorable project.

‘Art that looks back at you’ is fascinating to me in the way that the audience can gain an almost human interaction with the art installations of ‘opto-isolator’ and ‘snout.’ Although it is slightly eerie, the project itself is fun, light-hearted and engaging. Levin discusses phenomenon such as “phonaesthesia” which occurs when certain sounds are associated with meanings and images. I never really thought about this and after he discussed it, I reflected upon how intricate the relationship between linguistics and the brain is. I admire how Levin elaborates on this concept and it is unfolded into interactive installations the audience can engage with.

The speaker, Frederic Kaplan discusses in ‘How to build an information time machine’ a range of interesting facts and demonstrates to the audience that although we do not have much information in the past, there are ways where historians can “extrapolate” on data. I found this interesting as I don’t know much about history, particularly in Venice and he addresses how through this technique, we can gain an understanding of how individuals lived in the past. Kaplan also discusses how we must come together as a team if we want to achieve goals that are beyond just a small team. I believe that as time goes on, we must work together as a team to ensure important information is preserved effectively, sustain our world and continuously improve it through technology and compassion.

References in APA

Interactive installation by Golan [Image] (2017). Retrieved September 25, 2017, from https://www.google.com.au/search?q=golan+levin&rlz=1C1CHBF_en-GBAU733AU733&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiu0uqdzInXAhWCnJQKHafLCO4Q_AUICigB&biw=1396&bih=646#imgdii=tGbRw503WsKjUM:&imgrc=shndYJ–HbHsdM:

Kaplan at TED talk [Image] (2013). Retrieved September 25, 2017, from https://www.google.com.au/search?q=frederic+kaplan&rlz=1C1CHBF_en-GBAU733AU733&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiZnru9zYnXAhVBu5QKHRV1Da8Q_AUICygC&biw=1396&bih=646#imgrc=-q1wA4vYq7WrwM:

Koblin’s SMS visualisation [Image] (2017). Retrieved September 25, 2017, from http://www.aaronkoblin.com/project/amsterdam-sms/

Miebach’s string instrument [Image] (2015). Retrieved September 25, 2017, from https://www.google.com.au/search?q=nathalie+miebach&rlz=1C1CHBF_en-GBAU733AU733&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi0t-T6zYnXAhWDnJQKHeutABYQ_AUICigB&biw=1396&bih=646#imgrc=yOk6QpRJHZd6dM:




Part 1: What is data journalism?

Part one interviews a range of workers at ‘The Guardian.’ The video provides precedents of interactive data and images and several perspectives on what they believe data journalism is and why. For example, author and editor of The Guardian data blog advocates that “journalism is more than just ‘letters.’ It is about telling a story with the power of data.” (2013) While there are several viewpoints, the main points are:

  • It can establish a helpful, clear picture.
  • Nobody trusts journalists anymore. Data makes a stronger story. Numbers are so strong so the story isn’t just about opinion but what the reality is.
  • The only way to get a story across is to use techniques statisticians use.
  • The guardian is the pioneer of data journalism and first data bloggers. Also have a strong history in data visualisation, making them a more reliable source
  • They try to provide people with a destination to try and find the truth behind the stories.

The video finalises with Simon Rogers advocating that “Data journalism, is just journalism.” (2013)


The guardian newspaper

Part 2: History of Data Journalism at The Guardian

The video is of Simon Rogers explaining the history of data visualisation of the guardian. He claims that data journalism is new as, as it relies on the technologies of the moment that didn’t exist before 2009.

The guardian was established in 1821. Workers of the guardian have been trying to bring data visualisation to life so that it is more engaging to the readers. He argues his viewpoint through a rhetorical question, that if “we don’t know the reality of facts and data and analyse them, how can we get any better?”

The video exhibits precedents to the viewer of early graphics, such as data visualisations of “The somme battle achievement” and how it shows the ground work of months of pain and losses experienced by the armies. Rogers then discusses lend lease exports of planes and tanks in relation to production in 1943. The article aimed to give people a sense of hope throughout the war and the chart was to illustrate ‘proof’ that everything would be okay.

Overtime, the guardian inculcated more photos and visual content in their articles. The digital age provides viewers with the opportunity to interactive with data like never before and variables such as speed has increased the quality of engagement.

Part 3: Data journalism in action: The London Olympics

Simon Rogers highlights the various ways that the guardian illustrates data from the Olympics. Rogers begins by comparing the value of what a medal is worth in each country, by arguing that “five medals from a third world country means more than a richer country, that has won the same amount.” The video also shows academic statistician, Professor Christoforus Anagnostopoulos and Interactive designer of the guardian, Gary Blight, advocating their viewpoints on how they will be providing creative solutions to display the rankings of each country.

The team accomplished this by linking an interactive site to the live alterations of the game via a google chart, allowing for the viewer to constantly observe a precise visualisation.

The video then shows comments of viewers questioning the explanation of the statistics and potential influencers, allowing for them to come to their own conclusions.

Anagnostopoulos states that their goal is to “tell a story, using numbers.”


Guardian Olympics visualisation 


Simon Roger and the interviewees has allowed me to gain an insightful understanding of the importance of data visualisation. It also reveals how viewers have been able to interact with it over time and the beauty that the data is unbiased and thus, allows for the audience to interpret it individually. I realise now the significant difference between data visualisation and biased journalism and now have a stronger appreciation for it.

In part two, I realised that solid evidence is what provides people with a sense of relief and hope. Journalism without data and facts doesn’t provide viewers with confidence and there is a mistrust that the source is unreliable. The war was cruel and was responsible for an unfathomable amount of great loss, sadness and abuse. I now have an admiration for data visualisation, particularly when Rogers explained how the lend-lease exports of planes and tanks chart gave people a sense of hope, as it provided evidence that the direction America was headed in, was a positive one.

Part three provided me with an appreciation of how advanced technology has become and how it allows for us to explore data in ways we could not before. Coding is a complex language to me. I admire the way Gary Blight organises the data in a way that illuminates the value of medals in each country, whilst coincidentally organises choice of categories in a simple drop down format.

Overall, I have a greater appreciation of the use of data visualisation and the ways in which it can advance and assist humanity.

References in APA

The guardian newspaper [Image] (2015). Retrieved September 19, 2017, from https://www.google.com.au/search?q=THE+GUARDIAN&rlz=1C1CHBF_en-GBAU733AU733&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwik9N-Nu4nXAhUKH5QKHZZrBRUQ_AUIDSgE&biw=1396&bih=690#imgrc=VaS2E77XLNVwtM:

Guardian Olympics visualisation  [Image] (2012). Retrieved September 19, 2017, from https://www.google.com.au/search?q=the+guardian+olympics&rlz=1C1CHBF_en-GBAU733AU733&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiN147Ou4nXAhXKJ5QKHW3gBDgQ_AUICygC&biw=1396&bih=646#imgrc=uV55LX5VGCCnBM:




Why do we use graphs? Although there are several ways, it aims to make interpreting and comparing data easier. Leon advocates that design students must consider how data is interpreted instead of simply focusing on aesthetics and trends. For example, bubble charts are a trend however, they don’t always specific communicate data in the best way. The lecture displays a bubble chart of the market capitalisation of ‘Societe General’ and the visualisation is not clear and somewhat vague. When it is expressed in bar chart, the interpretation is far more accurate.

Our eyes are good at comparing a single dimension. For example, length. However, we are not sufficient in calculating more complex shapes like surface area (height x width).

Leon illustrates a square chart by David McCandles, called ‘the Billion Dollar O Gram’ found on Informationisbeautiful.net. It illustrates the amount of money lost in specific countries during the financial crisis.

Alberto Cairo’s precedents are used once again in this lecture and this example shows what sort of data visualisations tools allow for the viewer to interpret data more accurately or in generic ways.

The most common types of charts are:

  • Time series change (plots charted over time, commonly seen in the stock market)
  • Bar chart (makes comparisons between things, normally one dimensional)
  • Scatterplot (makes comparisons with multiple variables)

The lecture pod also discusses a case study of how a rocket launch blew up and how the significance of data visualisation affected this. Leon explains in the video how a graphic was shown between the rocket manufacturers and NASA but it not visually communicated effectively. After the accident, Edward Tufte, an American statistician, rearranged the data as a scatter plot and the data was more clear. It then showed that there is always damage below 65 degrees (Fahrenheit) which was the explanation behind the accident. Thus, it can be assumed that perhaps if the data was communicated through this technique prior to the launch, they may have prevented the accident.


Edward Tufte photograph 

Leon provides a further in depth explanation of data visualisation charts. They are:

Bar chart
Allows the observer to quickly compare information. It can reveal highs and lows at a glance. Leon also discusses how to make a bar chart more effective.


Bar chart, countries vs languages

Line chart
Line charts connect numerical data points. It helps to visualise a sequence of values. The primary use is to display trends over a period of time.

Pie chart
Pie charts should be used to show proportionate variables or percentages of information.


I’ve never been someone who was very good at math in high school and always had difficulty grasping the concepts of various charts and what they are used for. Leon breaks it down in simple terms where he provides a detailed explanation of what and how they are used whilst simultaneously using precedents to demonstrate the charts. While I have learnt the significance of data visualisation from the lectures and how they have assisted people in learning how to identify trends and patterns, I found the example of the rocket launch the most intriguing segment. I realise now how essential it is to visualise data in the most effective way possible so that people can use this as a tool to find solutions to problems.

References in APA

Bar chart, countries vs languages [Image] (2017). Retrieved September 19, 2017, from conceptdraw.com/a413c3/p1/preview/640/pict–horizontal-bar-graph-the-most-spoken-languages-of-the-world.png–diagram-flowchart-example

Edward Tufte photograph [Image] (2017). Retrieved September 19, 2017, from http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/graphics/tufte_book.gif


LECTURE POD 3- Historical and contemporary visualization methods (part 1)


Data visualization example (1): Data visualization strategies have been utilized over two centuries. Lecture pod 3 first discusses a data visualization that depicts the failure of Napoleon’s invasion into Moscow which occurred in 1812.


Napolean invasion chart 

A French engineer created this map, 50 years after the failure of Napoleon’s invasion into Moscow which occurred in 1812. This diagram displays several different variables.

The thickness of the line indicates the strength of the army at critical points. From left to right is the army crossing the river, with 422,000 and arriving in Moscow with only 100,000 men. From right to left (the darker line) shows the army returning to the west. Only 10,000 men survived. The vertical lines connect the temperature to the location.

Data visualization example (2): The second data visualization that lecture pod 3 discusses is one that was created by Florence Nightingale who played a significant role in the Crimean War (1858). The Crimean war was between the Russians and alliance with the ottoman empire and the British. Florence nightingale also helped to care for wounded soldiers.

The graph demonstrates that soldiers died from diseases more than wounds in battle. It goes around in a circus for a full year then crosses to the second year (left to right).

Nightingale wasn’t just famous for being a nurse, she was also the first female statistician. She was a significant part in developing proper sanitation for wounded soldiers and helped solve malnutrition among them. The graph below demonstrates how the death toll of  soldiers decreased over a period of time due to Nightingale’s effective attempt to prevent disease and malnutrition by providing proper sanitation and adequate nutrition.

Although her charts were not be perfect but they were a huge innovation in her time.




Nightingale visualisation 

Data visualization example (3): The third example that lecture pod 3 discusses is the work of Otto Neurath (1882 – 1945). He was a pioneer for socialism. He started a museum where he aimed to make social and economic relationships understandable, especially for the uneducated.

He developed a system known as the ‘international system for infographic picture information.’

Neurath also introduced exhibition packs that were made for the general people, as Otto believed that museums should be brought to the people, not the other way around. These were shipped all over the country and put on display at all sorts of venues to widen ideas. The precedent below displays a photograph of Neurath cutting out pieces to create an exhibition pack to distribute to the masses.


Neurath photograph 


Viewing lecture pod 3 has allowed me to gain an appreciation of how one of the most significant strengths of data visualization is that it can reduce the time to understand a certain event. Attempting to analyse paragraphs of texts, facts, theory and trying to make sense of it can be quite tedious and I have found that data visualization has augmented my capacity to absorb the data efficiently.

Another aspect of this lecture that I found intriguing was how Neurath created educational visualizations that could be communicated effectively towards the masses, including the uneducated. As education was a luxury during early 1900’s, I admire that Neurath acknowledged this and put in considerable effort to ensure his message reached the masses through an easy-to-understand method.

Lecture pod 3 has allowed to me to gain an understanding of the ways that data visualization was historically used and how effective it has helped us interpret data in a unique way that allows us to identify trends, patterns and correlations to advance our understanding of the world.

References in APA

Napoleon invasion chart [Image] (2016). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from http://www.google.com.au/search?q=napoleon+data+visualization&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiyyPr7oKfVAhUKwbwKHWAqBmMQ_AUICigB&biw=1920&bih=950#imgrc=FCt4y-Pl4KRuoM:

Neurath photograph [Image] (2010). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from www.google.com.au/search?biw=1920&bih=950&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=otto+neurath+exhibition+pack&oq=otto+neurath+exhibition+pack&gs_l=psy-ab.3…33209.36271.0.36448.….0…1.1.64.psy-ab..11.1.204…0i8i30k1.MTRBnzSYurw#imgrc=ubUz6q-qNxAT5M:

Nightingale visualisation  [Image] (2017). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://www.google.com.au/search?biw=1920&bih=950&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=florence+nightingale+data+visualization&oq=florence+night&gs_l=psy-ab.3.1.0j0i67k1l2j0.704123.705668.0.707212.….0…1.1.64.psy-ab..12.2.677.e8dvL4r_S6U#imgrc=9s6FSEpRZ7JfZM: