On Thursday, November 16, 2017, the University of Miami hosted the 4th annual VizUM Symposium. In celebration of visual representation, the Symposium explored the relationship between art, science, and data through two guest speakers, Angus Forbes and Giorgia Lupi.
Angus Forbes, an assistant professor in the Computational Media Department at University of California, Santa Cruz, and director of UCSC Creative Coding, has a passion for researching and exploring the connections between creative visualization and complex scientific information.
At VizUM, Forbes began the discussion by asking, “Does it make sense to have an art exhibition at a computer science conference?”
Being part of both the arts community and the visualization community, Forbes has noticed that while art is, primarily, representation and personal expression, and holds a rich history in film, design, conceptual art, and phonetics, it does not have much interaction with scientists and practicing researchers. .
In 2013, Forbes helped coordinate the IEEE VIS Arts Program to encourage a discussion between artists and scientists about connecting visualization research and artistic design. Forbes also shared other information visualization projects such as TAG, a project that represents the relationships between words and phrases, and NeuroCave, an immersive program where one can visually explore the functions of connectome datasets collected by neuroscientists.
The second speaker was Giorgia Lupi, an Italian information designer and an expert in the visual representation of data. She started her talk asking the audience, “What is data?” and went on to explain that data is a tool used to represent reality, and could be used toward unexpected purposes, such as creating connections between friends.
“Data is not the point,” explained Lupi. “Rather, data is the medium we use to describe our reality.”
In her work, Lupi explores new ways to display charts and information, including one project where she turned data on people’s interests into buttons that they could wear at a conference. The data transformed into an art chart that communicated a message and was used as an icebreaker.
“We are the data,” said Lupi. “This means we can blur the boundaries instead of defining them.” Lupi touched on how visualization can have a real impact on people’s lives, and goes beyond just charts and pie graphs. By designing new visual languages, we are able to relate and understand data better.
Lupi also explained the concept of data humanism with a postcard project: Lupi and fellow information designer Stefanie Posavec lived across the world from each other. They decided to collect and hand draw personal data about their actions, feelings, possessions, purchases, and other day-to-day details to send to one another on postcards. Through this, they not only learned about the personal lives of each other, but they became friends. This year-long project is now a three-hundred-page book entitled “Dear Data,” which captures the 52 postcards they sent to one another. The original postcards are now a permanent exhibit on display at the Museum of Modern Art ion New York.
VizUM Visualization Competition
In 2017, a VizUM Visualization Competition was added to provide an opportunity to our community to participate in the data revolution, though the vehicle of the annual VizUM Symposium. Participants learned new skills, discovered new ways to visually represent their findings to non-scientific audiences, and created beautiful pieces to add to their portfolios by diving deep into open-source data that speaks to their fellow citizens, increases public understanding about relevant issues, and calls them to action by calling their attention to topics that matter. Finalists displayed their work at VizUM.
Judges picked the 1st and 2nd place winners.
In 1st Place: “Visualiz-IRS” Team Members: Caroline Seguin, Mary Huang, Shirley Lowe, and, in 2nd Place: “UM Analytics” Team Members: Maria Concordia, Carmel Joseph, and Suriya Harest), and then a “turnover chain” was awarded to the People’s Choice team (voted on by the audience), which turned out to be a true turnover as “UM Analytics” won the people’s choice!
(pictured left to right, then IDSC Director of Engagement Athina Hadjixenofontos, guest speaker Angus Forbes, Prof. Mahsa Mirzargar, guest speaker Giorgia Lupi, event founder and host Alberto Cairo, and Maria Stampino, Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, at University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences)
Giorga Lupi is an award-winning information designer. She co-founded Accurat, a data-driven design firm with offices in Milan and New York, where she is the design director. She received her M-Arch at FAF in Ferrara, Italy, and earned a PhD in Design at Politecnico di Lilano. She relocated to New York City from Italy, where she now lives. She is co-author of Dear Data, an aspirational, hand-drawn, data-visualization book published by Princeton Architectural Press in the US, and by Penguin Random House in the UK. The original set of postcards has been recently acquired as part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. She recently gave a TED TALK on her Humanistic approach to Data.
Data Humanism How can data visualization design can make a difference and make data more meaningful for people’s lives? How can we make a real difference now that the ways we relate to information are evolving more rapidly than we realize? Now that we are past what we can call “peak infographics” and we are left with a general audience that understands much more of what we’re doing in our profession: an audience that is ready to welcome a second wave of more meaningful and thoughtful visualizations. Giorgia will discuss how to see this moment as an opportunity to jumpstart a new renaissance, where we can question the impersonality of a merely technical approach to data, where we are ready to reconnect numbers to what they really stand for: which are more and more our lives.
Computational Media Deparment | University of California, Santa Cruz
Angus Forbes is an Assistant Professor in the Computational Media Department at University of California, Santa Cruz, where he directs UCSC Creative Coding. His research investigates novel techniques for visualizing and interacting with complex scientific information; his interactive artwork has been featured at museums, galleries, and festivals throughout the world. For the last five years (2013-2017), Angus has chaired the IEEE VIS Arts Program (VISAP), a forum that promotes dialogue about the relation of aesthetics and design to visualization research, and he is serving as the Arts Papers chair for ACM SIGGRAPH for 2018. Information about Angus’s recent projects is available at https://creativecoding.soe.ucsc.edu.
Creative and Critical Data Visualization In this talk, Angus will present a range of recent projects that introduce current trends in the field of information visualization, including interactive representations of biological pathways and protein interaction networks, dynamic network visualizations of the human brain connectome, and a public art installation that explores connections between photographic images and literary themes in the work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. In addition to describing details about these individual projects, Angus will explore the potentials of integrating artistic and scientific methodologies, and he will discuss the use of computational media approaches to augment visual analyses of complex data, and to enhance user engagement in immersive environments.