Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘data visualization’

08 APRIL, 2009

Bicycle Built for 2,000


Why 2,088 people are singing Stanley Kubrick’s praises for $0.06 each.

Here’s a blast from the Brain Pickings past — remember Amazon’s Mechanical Turk? What about data artist extraordinaire Aaron Koblin? After his brilliant Sheep Market project, Koblin is back with another fantastic crowdsourced art effort.

Bicycle Built for 2,000 is an audio-visual collage of 2,088 voice recordings collected via Mechanical Turk. Each person is asked to listen to a tiny sound clip, then imitate what they heard, without any knowledge of the full context of the clip. The voices are stitched together to sing “Daisy Bell” — a symbolic choice, as this is the first example of musical speech synthesis in history. (It also happens to be the song HAL is singing at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey.)

You can click on each note to view the waveform of its various iterations and hear how different people “sang” it.

Participants came from 71 different countries. Each singer was paid $0.06 — not quite the Broadway gig, but we find it utterly MoMA-worthy, so it more than pays in street cred.

13 MARCH, 2009

The World of 100: Our Global Village


The real minority report, or what the world would look like if it were a village of 100.

From data visualization to infographics, we’re big on the power of smart graphic design to convey big concepts that are otherwise hard to grasp in their raw numberness. Which is why we love designer Toby Ng‘s poster series The World of 100 — an experimental graphical representation of statistical information about the world, based on the allegorical scenario of reducing the world to a village of 100 people.

The series is pure design crispness — simple vectors make the shapes clean enough to make their point, with vibrant, solid colors making those points all the more visceral and impactful.

In a weird way, we were the most shocked by the least consequential ones, our daily entitlements that we take for granted — somehow, PSA’s and the general sense of social responsibility have made most of us aware of severe problems like hunger, deadly disease, and the lack of clean drinking water. But computers? Not something we’d given much thought to, and yet:

We wish we could show you the actual posters — some of the web images are too small to read the text, which is a pity as the information is nothing short of humbling. For instance, in our proverbial village of 100:

48 can’t speak, act according to their faith and conscience due to harassment, imprisonment, torture or death.

And some of it, although common knowledge, makes some of our societal ironies particularly salient. Like the notion of “minorities” — in public policy, in employment recruiting, in education quotas. It’s never been this evident that the ratios of power are not contingent upon the ratios of numbers.

Check out all 20 posters here. And enjoy that computer of yours — the other 93 villagers can’t.

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12 MARCH, 2009

Accidents: The Abstract Art of Data Visualization Goofs


What New York City homicide rates have to do with Beijing circa 1917 and Twitter.

We’re the first to admit our recent data viz obsession has gotten out of hand. So, before we bow to data visualization as the be-all-end-all that will save the world and do your laundry in the process, we’re taking a step back with a look at its imperfections.

Enter New York Times graphics editor Matthew Bloch‘s series Accidents — a collection of data visualization goofs and bloopers that happened while he was working on maps and other graphics.

So what if we happen to find them charming.

They make absolutely no sense, represent nothing whatsoever, and have no bearing on any statistical relationship. But they are accidental art at its most viscerally supreme.

Some of the images were eventually debugged to produce the intended data visualizations for the actual The New York Times. (Matthew’s real work is admittedly fantastic — from the most tweeted words during the Super Bowl, to a timeline of space exploration.)

But we love the idea that data can take on a life of its own, deviating from its intended purpose to produce accidental abstractions — perhaps a new breed of art that we can call metamodernism?

via @BBHLabs