Visualizations and Art

I’ve been seeing a lot of interest and examples of data visualization coming via the blogosphere.    Stanford has released Data Wrangler in alpha, open source Gephi is in beta, and Google is not allowing users to upload their own data to their visualization tool.

It’s also interesting to see the artistic bent of many of the popular visualizations.  Check out the comments below the Facebook visualization, for example.  There are also entire sites with a definite artistic bent to the data visualizations.  Two of my favorite are and

For us, this seems like a great potential cross disciplinary project for students in sciences or courses with a stats component to work with art students in order to make a visual argument.   I know we already have a large number of science classes who make posters each semester as part of their presentation.   Art is a little trickier since we don’t have a graphics design course.  While the digital photography students certainly have applicable skills and knowledge, it’s hard to imagine a final project that would fit into their course.

Faculty Willoughby Workshop

I’m a little late, but I wanted to mention a few of Willoughby faculty workshops we had last week.  For those not familiar with Dickinson College’s Willoughby program, basically it’s a intensive week of workshops for faculty on Web 2.0 and emerging technologies that we think could be valuable for their teaching or research.  Anyone who would like to see all the notes for all of the workshops can view them here.

We had three new sessions this year that I thought went very well and deserve a mention.  Andy Petrus and Mark Wardecker did a  presentation on visualizations using primarily Many Eyes.  The faculty took to it very quickly.  The text visualizations were especially popular.  Part of this I think was due to the fact that we had a larger number of faculty from the humanities this year, but also because there’s no need to reformat the data in Excel.

I did a presentation with Mark Wardecker on open content, with an emphasis on educational resources, open government, and crowdsourcing.  Last year, the most popular part was crowdsourcing as the faculty discussed possible projects for their students.  This year, there was a heavier focus on the resources portion.  Faculty compared the courses from MIT with large intro courses as Dickinson.  They were very similar, which meant they could save themselves a lot of time by either using the resources from the course or as just a template.

Finally, I did presentation with Ryan Burke on augmented reality.  The very cutting edge stuff is always a hard sell, but we had quite a few practical academic examples from Bryan Alexander’s slideshare.  The professors in community studies or with classes that had a local component in particular were able to discuss projects where students could add “layars” of information to places in Carlisle.