Possible resources of interest in connection with the upcoming Self-Ethnography and Data Visualization module at AHO, focusing on tools and inspiration. Please also refer to the lecture note and the articles I put on Dropbox.
Articles / videos
- The Data-Driven Life, Gary Wolf, New York Times, April 2010.
- Wired: Know Thyself: Tracking Every Facet of Life, from Sleep to Mood to Pain, 24/7/365
- Gary Wolf, Quantified Self TED talk
- Jan Willem Tulp: The Process of Creating Data Visualizations
- The Eyeo Festival has a Vimeo channel full of great talks that deal with infoviz topics, including speakers like Jer Thorp, Ben Fry, Moritz Stefaner, Stefanie Posavec and too many others to mention here.
Tools and software
- Two options for auto-tracking everything you do on your computer: Rescue Time and Manic Time.
- QuantifiedSelf.com has a decent overview of available self-tracking tools: Guide / iPhone products
- More obscure but Open Source and quite powerful if the documentation can be trusted: Selfspy, Python-based and runs on MacOS, outputting to a local database.
- Popular social services: FourSquare, Last.fm
- Self-tracking goes well with an Open Source, information-wants-to-be-free attitude: See Open You or search GitHub for quantified self for all kinds of related projects.
- Fitness enthusiasts, runners and bikers are avid data trackers. They drive the personal data tracking market while often remaining blissfully unaware of the Quantified Self utopia: MapMyRide, Nike Fuelband, Fitbit, Snore Lab
- For periodic on-the-run logging of any type of information: your.flowingdata and Daytum offer convenient logging with charts and data export, clearly aimed at data heads. Compare Daily Tracker, which is more aligned with the narrative of self-improvement.
- Evernote is not strictly about data tracking, but it is a very convenient tool for it. Focused on cloud-based note-taking that bridges across mobile devices, your web-based services and even normal office software, it’s a blank slate for any number of uses.
- Services built around calendars and to-do lists: Clocked In, Wunderlist, Basecamp. Not obviously related to data logging, but often relying the same mentality of self-discipline.
- Life Hacker is a respected blog discussing strategies to help you stay productive and in charge of your own life / career / inbox. Data tracking is one such strategy, popular since it promises to provide quantifiable analysis.
- Somewhat related: Getting Things Done (or GTD) is a bestseller book about time-managing, but it also has a large online following that is pretty much a subculture in its own right.
- On a more personal and emotional note, mood tracking was an early hit. It is now increasingly being presented as a possible self-help tool against mood disorders: Emoo.me, Moodpanda.
- Also: Mydrinkaware, Recovery etc. focus on battling addiction issues.
Projects / inspiration: So much to pick from, so little time. Google is your friend.
After posting my Screensaver Culture presentation yesterday it was blogged on Creative Applications by Greg Smith and I’ve gotten quite a few responses on Twitter. Some of the comments are on point and some are just funny.
Below is a more or less complete list. In summary, the arguments are roughly as follows:
- “Screensavers are outdated / unnecessary.” Well, yes. But that has never meant much in terms of deciding whether a cultural phenomenom succeeds or is banished to the Wasteland of Forgotten Memes. Tamagotchis or animated GIFs, anyone? 90% of all iPhone / Android apps are unnecessary for everyday living, yet the smartphone app culture is a runaway train.
- “Developing screensavers is currently way too hard.” I share this sentiment and suspect it to the main culprit along with its corollary: “Installing screensavers is too hard / scary / likely to mess with the rest of my computer.”
- “It’s impossible to improve on flying toasters.” This terrifying thought is exactly why I would suggest screensavers need revisiting.
In conclusion: Between being tricky to develop and just as tricky to install and successfully use, screensavers stand no chance of recovering ground as a cultural phenomenom. Despite their close link to the app culture that is currently dominating our lives, screensavers (aka “ambient software”) will get no love.
This might not seem like such a terrible loss, but I still posit that ambient data gadgets with possible integration to web / mobile apps would’ve been a great usage scenario. There are some ways this could still happen:
- Microsoft and Apple realize the lost potential and relaunch their screensaver frameworks complete with app stores for screensavers. (Unlikely.)
- Google develops a screensaver mode for Chrome as part of their Chrome apps initiative and allows sales of screensavers through the Chrome app store. (Entirely possible if a little optimistic. My favorite option by far, though. Google, are you listening?)
- In both these scenarios, new screensavers would be based on HTML5 with WebGL, allowing them to be cross-platform and based on open standards. Because you all understand that proprietary is stupid, right?
A sad footnote: I had to uninstall the brilliant Briblo screensaver after realizing it was interfering with the taskbar on Windows 7. So I’m back to the ever popular blank screen, like so much of the world population.
Read the rest of this entry »
Update: After this was posted it got blogged on Creative Applications and I’ve received quite a few responses via Twitter. See the separate post “Screensaver Culture – Twitter responds” for a summary, as well as some further thoughts on the demise of the screensaver.
Task: Make a screensaver for 2012
- Your task is to come up with a concept for a screensaver that is both suitable to the screensaver format and updated to a 2012 understanding of interaction design. We are looking for ideas that go beyond the traditional screensaver format, or which reinvent that format by applying design thinking to a field full of visual cliche.
- Two general directions are suggested (but not required):
1. Ambient data gadgets – screensavers as data aggregators and visualizers.
2. Computational graphics – parametric visuals.
- If your idea is too ambitious to realize in a 3-day time frame we want to see convincing screen mockups of how the screensaver would work. But we would rather see a real demo that’s rough around the edges than a slick Photoshop sketch. You must submit at least one Processing sketch illustrating part of your screensaver’s functionality.
I have uploaded the introductory lecture from Monday to Scribd, as seen above. The list of suggestions for possible data sources and comments on possible challenges are at the very end of the document. The visualization examples I used in the lecture are listed below.
In the section on self-ethnography I made rather heavy use of Nicholas Felton’s Feltron Report as a valuable reference. Please see his web site for more information on that project, you can even purchase hardcopies of the report for your own pleasure.
Visualization links & examples
Self-Ethnography – tools
The next two weeks I am teaching a workshop in Information Visualization and Self-Ethnography for the Interaction Design course at AHO. I’ll be posting links and resources here on the blog in the next few days.
Data collecting tools
Ever since doing Stockspace project it seems I am getting asked to do data-related work. This despite the fact that my personal interests diverge from such masters of insightful infographics as Martin Wattenberg, David McCandless or Jonathan Harris.
Suffice to say that I am more concerned with exploring data structures as spaces than I am with providing new understandings of the information contained within them. Manuel Lima’s Information Visualization Manifesto calls for a seriousness on the topic of data treatments, while my projects remain comfortably frivolous.
Recently I’ve been working on a project that has required researching data sources and adapting them to illustrate a bigger idea, which has led to much Googling in the absence of good data from the client. Sometimes you find the right thing immediately, but sometimes data is hard to find in a format that is freely available and easily parsable. Since I have found some good sources I thought I’d share them here…
Miscellaneous free data
I would be interested in hearing tips about any great data sets out there, particularly interesting time series data.
Miska Knapek recently sent me a link to a source of weather sensor data from Helsinki, including measurements of wind direction at the top of Helsinki’s Olympic Tower in 5-minute intervals. He has already made some wind visualization videos and some fabricated wind data sculptures based on this data.
Processing visualization head Jer Thorp is putting his money where his mouth and publishing 7 pieces of code in 7 days, free to download and experiment with. Judging from the three that he’s released so far they’re not your standard 20-minute sketches either:
- GoodMorning! is a Twitter vizualization, showing users around the world popping up on a globe as they utter the magic words “good morning”. With a little geocoding and spherical mapping thrown in, this is a sweet sketch
- NY Times: 365/360 uses the New York Times open data API to retrieve news stories for an entire year and draw connections between them. The results combine complexity with elegance for that true infoporn look.
- tree.growth revisits that old classic, the L-system tree. Thorp uses colors and abstract “leaves” to great effect.
With such a strong start, one certainly looks forward to seeing the next four sketches to come. It’s not so common to find sketches of this complexity freely available, so they’re a great study for users who are on the threshold of making more complex applications.
I’ve uploaded some HD videos from the Stockspace series I did a while back. You can see the whole set on my Flickr: Stockspace set. There you can also see them in proper HD resolution, which helps preserve finer details of the geometry.
These were originally created for use as TV spots for Knight Capital Group. Most of the time they get aired on financial networks very early in the morning, since traders love preparing for the opening of the market by obsessively watching news.
They were also shown on the NASDAQ screen in Times Square once, on an occasion where the Knight CEO rang the morning bell to open the NY Stock Exchange that day. As a recent immigrant to New York that certainly felt gratifying.
I’m participating in a workshop on Site Specific Architecture and Emergent Design at Snøhetta architects, Oslo. There have been presentations by myself, Søren Sørensen (AHO), Terje Johnsen (IFE), Andreas Eggertsen (Snøhetta) and Alexander Hellervik (Snøhetta).
Søren and Terje presented some interesting projects using Augmented Reality (AR) in architectural visualization. See architect.no for more information and images.
Relevant links / inspiration
Websites as graphs: Code & Form HTML structure
A while back I blogged Websites as Graphs on Generator.x. It’s a nice visualization of the structure of HTML documents. Since a well-formed HTML document has a logical hierarchy of tag containers, it is possible to visualize it as a strict graph. The results are both informative and beautiful, revealing the strategies used for structuring the document’s content. It will also reveal whether the document holds up to that most essential of post-CSS web principles: A tableless design.
The original post by Sala shows some examples, and also provides a live applet that you can try out on your own site. Be sure to have a look at all the pictures tagged 'websitesasgraphs' on Flickr.
Sala has generously provided the Processing source code for the application. It requires the HTMLParser, Traer.Animation and Traer Physics libraries to run. HTMLParser is a standard Java library and hence does not come with instructions for Processing. According to the project home page, all you should need to do is download the latest version of the library, and then copy the file htmlparser.jar from the /lib folder to your sketch’s “code” folder. I haven’t tested this, so if you find otherwise let me know.