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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

Published March 12, 2009




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