It’s been an odd year, what with the flooding of our house at the beginning. Things are much better at the end. I seem to have taken a lot of shots this year, perhaps because of the flooding, and the need to itemize the damage, or perhaps because of our big trips to Israel and Disney World.
Better late than never, here’s my write-up from my last day at Eyeo. It feels little more patchy than the other days, but perhaps that’s because of the juggling around that happened towards the end of the day because of some changes in speaker line up.
Lauren McCarthy – You, Me and My Computer
I’m not really aware of Lauren’s work, although she’s clearly a fixture in the Eyeo circuit. She came across as delightfully self-effacing, which makes sense, since much of her work focuses on what she sees as her own social awkwardness. She’s produced a wide body of research and design probes and prototypes which are consistently engaging, and are often pushing her to examine her own capacity for engaging with others.
The Happiness Hat, for example, jabs her in the back of the head with a sharp pointy thing if she isn’t smiling:
During our recent trip to Israel I ended up taking a whole bunch of panoramas of the locations we visited, stitching them together from multiple photos. Some of these are very wide, while others allowed me to stich together whole buildings that my camera wouldn’t fit in one shot.
I’ve collected them all together in one set of photos on OneDrive:
Day two of the Eyeo Festival in Minneapolis. To recap, this is an event that focuses on the intersection between art, technology and design, with a strong emphasis on data.
Kim Rees – The Data Future
Kim works for Periscopic, a data visualization agency whose work I really admire (see, particularly, their gun murders work). I had high hopes for this talk but, to be honest, I came away quite disappointed. Kim set aside her work, and kept her presentation very simple – just a few slides with a few words – which is quite refreshing in this visuals-intensive event.
Instead she decided to focus on the future of data and the internet of things, particularly. Again, this can be great, but she unfortunately failed to really carry me along with a carefully crafted argument for how things that have not yet come will be. Instead, what followed was a bit of a diatribe, filled with a lot of buzz words and worry around nano-tech, around sensors thrown in the air, around userless interfaces and so on. It didn’t paint a big picture (again, for me) and instead came across as a bit naive, which I think is doing both her and her company a disservice.
Paola Antonelli – The Art of Our Time
I’ve seen Paola talk in the past, and through her relationship with the RCA, and the great exhibitions she curates at the MOMA, she feels like a familiar presence, on the edge of my network, while never being tiring to listen to . She speaks without breathing, like a contestant in Just a Minute, while remaining easy to understand, peppering her talks with subtle little jokes and digs.
Here are my very rushed notes from some of the talks on day 1 of the Eyeo Festival in Minneapolis, where “artists, designers and coders build and bend technology and give us a glimpse into what’s possible, into what’s next. Ones and zeros float all around us just waiting to deliver the next new interaction. The Eyeo Festival brings together the most intriguing and exciting people in these arenas today.”
I’m enjoying learning to navigate the elevated system of tunnels (the Skyway) in the city, which seem to get as much use in the summer as they do in what I understand are some cold winter months. The Walker Arts centre is a great venue, and I keep on finding new corners that the festival has spread into. I feel a little sorry for the regular museum visitors, surrounded by designers and coders, when all they want is some quite time with Edward Hopper.
Mike Bostock – Visualizing Algorithms
He used a set of classic algorithms for sampling, sorting, shuffling and maze creation as a way of showing the value and pitfalls of the use of visualizations, how they can both better express what’s going on in the machine while also potentially misleading if not carefully crafted. A geeky talk that somehow felt like it had broader meaning when it comes to understanding the value of showing data visually.
His argument here was that visualizing the inner working of algorithms was useful for a number of reasons including teaching code, debugging and simply entertaining.
Analog Algorithms with Stefanie Posavec
Today is workshop day, and I’ve been lucky enough to sit in a half day session with Stefanie Posavec, who ran a class called “Analog Algorithms”, focussed on developing ideas for data visualizations on paper. Stefanie has history with Microsoft Research Cambridge, having worked a number of years ago on a visualization of changes made by Charles Darwin to the Origin of Species. This is work she did with Greg McInerny, which ended up on display at MOMA in New York, as part of the excellent Talk To Me exhibition.
Today’s workshop took place on the 9th floor of the Walker Art Centre. We sat four to a table, with large sheets of paper in front of us, and many pens and pencils also arrayed. Definitely set up for something hands on.
Stefanie started by going over her background and portfolio. She articulated the purpose of data visualizations as giving “meaning and connection”, “subtle insight” and “truth and honesty”, and argued that by drawing on paper you exploited a “tacit knowledge” and a physicality in representation that you don’t get by jumping straight to data and code.
Thanks Starbucks for this very clear explanation of the world zones of coffee. I’m still not sure which geographical spot floats my boat though.
We’re proud to be hosting the Research Through Design 2015 conference between July the 25th and 27th next year at Microsoft Research Cambridge, UK. RTD2013 was a definite highlight for me last year (see my previous posts). It manages to straddle design and academia very well, with an emphasis on submitting short papers, so not a huge amount of writing, along with an artefact which is both exhibited at the conference and then forms the centrepiece of discussion in each of the breakout sessions. This makes the conference really design friendly, and conversations happen in a round-table style that makes them very open and democratic.
I’d encourage anyone in design, either in or on the edges of academia, in the creative disciplines or in HCI, to consider submitting something to this great conference. The more diverse a mix of designers and practitioners it can get, the more the conversations get interesting.
It’s taken me a while to put together my favorite shots on Flickr that I posted in 2013. This is an annual tradition that I’ve had going for a decade now, which I guess makes Flickr one of the longer-running services that I still use.
I’m not sure what I can learn last year’s photos. I only took 4,788 shots, which compared to 2012’s high of 7,472 doesn’t seem that impressive. But 2012 was the year of the Olympics. 2013 did feel a little more sporadic, though, in terms of my photo taking, and in terms of my photo posting. I lost track a little of what I’d posted throughout the year. I’m not sure why. I’ve already taken 1,982 shots this year, so maybe I’m rectifying that, although many of those are of the after-effects of flooding. Those are still about preserving memory, but perhaps not in the same uplifting way that last year’s shots of our family reunion are.