Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘data visualization’

13 AUGUST, 2009

Data Visualization Spotlight: In The Air

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Carbon monoxide, spraying façades, and the art of seeing the invisible.

What an odd beast the air is — it slides below our sensory awareness, yet it’s the source of all life. But what if you could “see” the air and how it interacts with the rest of our environment?

That’s what In The Air, a fascinating visualization project, aims to answer by making visible the microscopic and invisible agents of Madrid’s air — gases, particles, pollen, disease carriers — and exploring how they interact with each other and the rest of the city.

The project includes a spectacular digital tool, which lets you play with and data-cross the various elements of the air in a way that makes behavioral patterns emerge.

The resulting data get fed into a physical prototype called a diffuse façade — an installation of colored water vapor diffusers informing passersby of real-time air contaminant levels. It doubles as a microclimate management tool, lowering the temperature in the summer and humidifying the air in the winter.

In The Air comes from Madrid’s Medialab-Prado and was developed for last year’s Visualizar seminar.

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10 AUGUST, 2009

Subway Personality: The MBTI Map

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What your subway station has to do with your propensity for extroversion.

We love psychology. We love data visualization. So we’re all over the MBTI Map, a visualization showing the relationships between human personality descriptors from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test — a tool designed to make iconic Swiss psychologist Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types more digestible — using subway lines as a metaphor for the connections between the different representative words and personality types.

A product of the Integrated Design Laboratory at Korea’s Ajou University, the map is a rare application of information design to the fields of psychology and sociology — and a brave effort to capture something as vague and abstract as personality visually and concretely.

Using the 161 words in the MBTI test, the team conducted a survey asking the relative closeness between pairs of words. Using cluster analysis, they extracted a total of 39 representative words. These were then arranged spatially using multidimensional scaling (MDS), which explores the similarities and dissimilarities of data, and wrapped in a subway metaphor.

Each subway line represents one of the 16 MBTI personality types, with subway stations arranged based on the semantic distance of the 39 word descriptors based on the MDS analysis. The outer circle contains the 161 original word descriptors from the test, grouped in 8 layers based on their hierarchical order. Finally, the colors of the words intuitively represent their meaning — so “calm” is in the blue spectrum and “passionate” in the red.

Pore over the brilliantly crafted map in this high-res PDF. And why not kill a few hours by taking one of these Jung-inspired tests, each resulting in a four-letter personality type, then finding yourself on the map? They aren’t the real MBTI deal, but they’re free and a ton of fun.

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08 JULY, 2009

Mapping Big Ideas: BIGVIZ

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200 pages of world-changing thinking, or what a sheep and a dog have to do with universal compassion.

When two of our favorite ideas — TED and data visualization — converge, it’s a beautiful thing. Naturally, we’re all over BIGVIZ — an ambitious effort by the fine folks at Autodesk, who took it upon themselves to visualize the entire 2008 TED conference.

BIGVIZ is the work of visual cartographers David Sibbet and Kevin Richards, who created over 700 spontaneous sketches in real time at TED. The 200-page PDF book — a free download — visually captures the gist of each speaker’s talk, mapping out the broader themes and the connections between them.

You’ll also find a number of fascinating charts and graphs on information patterns, some rather humorous illustrations of memorable TED moments, and even a few blank pages for you to sketch whatever ideas, connections or insights the talks may have sparked in you.

Go behind the scenes with the Autodesk team as they create the visualizations on-site, using multi-touch technology to interact with the sketches and view them as a history timeline or an interactive digital corkboard. Then, download BIGVIZ and enjoy.

And in case you’re wondering just why this visualization model works, watch information designer Tom Wujec’s excellent short TED talk about the 3 ways the brain creates meaning out of words, images, feelings, connections.