Category Archives: data

a girl goes to work (infographic video)

It’s not often that you see infographics with soul. Even though visuals are significantly more fun to look at than actual data tables, the oversimplification of infographics tends to suck out the interest in favor of making things quickly comprehensible (often to the detriment of the true data points, like the 2000 election map). This Röyksopp video, on the other hand, a delightful crossover between games, illustration, and infographic, is all about the storyline and subverts data to be a secondary player. This is not pure data visualization on the lines of the front page feature in USA Today. It is, instead, a touching story encased in the traditional visual language and iconography of infographics. The video’s currency belies its age: it won the 2002 MTV Europe music video award for best video.
Our information environment is growing both more dispersed and more saturated. Infographics serve as a filter, distilling hundreds of data points down into comprehensible form. They help us peer into the impenetrable data pools in our day to day life, and, in the best case, provide an alternative way to reevaluate our surroundings and make better decisions. (Tufte has also famously argued that infographics can be used to make incredibly poor decisions–caveat lector.)
But infographics do something else; more than visual representations of data, they are beautiful renderings of the invisible and obscured. They stylishly separate signal from noise, bringing a sense of comprehensive simplicity to an overstimulating environment. That’s what makes the video so wonderful. In the non-physical space of the animation, the datasphere is made visible. The ambient informatics reflect the information saturation that we navigate everyday (some with more serenity than others), but the woman in the video is unperturbed by the massive complexity of the systems that surround her. Her bathroom is part of a maze of municipal waterpipes; she navigates the public transport grid with thousands of others; she works at a computer terminal dealing with massive amounts of data (which are rendered in dancing—and therefore somewhat useless—infographics for her. A clever wink to the audience.); she eats food from a worldwide system of agricultural production that delivers it to her (as far as she can tell) in mere moments. This is the complexity that we see and we know and we ignore, just like her. This recursiveness and reference to the real is deftly handled. The video is designed to emphasize the larger picture and allows us to make connections without being visually bogged down in the particulars and textures of reality. The girl’s journey from morning to pint is utterly familiar, yet rendered at this larger scale and with the pointed clarity of a information graphic, the narrative is beautiful and touching.
via information aesthetics

flash memory: “the digital paper age”?

Heads are spinning in response to Samsung’s planned release of a 16 gigabyte flash drive – a string of eight 2GB flash memory cards. Flash memory is solid state data storage, as opposed to the conventional hard drive, which contains spinning mechanical parts. The implication is that the price of memory for computers will soon drop dramatically, as will the amount of energy used to power them. Moreover, you will be able to carry millions upon millions of pages on something the size of a keychain (people will probably start using smaller ones as business cards before too long). There’s definitely something reassuring about the solidity – to rely entirely on a single, rickety hard drive, or a network, to store documents is incredibly risky and unreliable. Plus, these cards are far more tolerant of shocks, bad weather and all around abuse.
Chosun Ilbo describes the remarks of Hwang Chang-gyu, Samsung’s chief executive, who said:

…the development signaled the opening of the “digital paper age.” “In the same way that civilization rapidly progressed after paper was invented 2,000 years ago, flash memory will serve as the ‘digital paper’ to store all kind of information from documents to photos and videos in the future. Mobile storage devices like CDs and hard disks will gradually disappear over the next two or three years, and flash memory will dominate the information age.”