Brain Pickings

NYTimes Data Artist Jer Thorp on Humanized Data at the Intersection of Science, Art, and Design

On the poetics of probability, or what the architecture of the social web has to do with landing in Hawaii.

In his fantastic recent talk from TEDxVancouver, my friend Jer Thorp — data artist in residence at The New York Times and Brain Pickings regular — takes us on a sweeping tour of his work and ethos, living at the intersection of science, art, and design.

[We need] an inclusion in this dialogue from artists, from poets, from writers — from people who can bring a human element into this discussion. Because I believe that this world of data is going to be transformative to us.”

Among the projects Jer shows are All The Names, Project Cascade, a New York Times initiative that visualizes the underlying structures of conversation and activity on the social web, a harrowing algorithmic installation displaying the names of those who perished in the 9/11 attacks not based on alphabetical order but based on data about who they were and where they were with when they died, GoodMorning!, a beautiful visualization of 11,000 “good morning” tweets sent over a 24-hour period, NYTimes: 365/360, which captures the top organizations and personalities for every year between 1985 and 2001 and the connections between them in a single graphic for each year, and Open Paths, which allows you to liberate your iPhone location data from Apple’s grip to own, use, or donate to meaningful research.

Underpinning Jer’s examples is a powerful common thread of humanizing data and making it a living piece of our personal histories and cultural poetics.

Inspired? Jer has made much of his source code freely available, along with excellent tutorials, and hosts regular workshops on how to wring magic from data.

Published March 1, 2012




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