This is our concluding issue of year six for the Parsons Journal for Information Mapping. Six years has been a near-epoch. timewise, for the Information Design world—the buzzwords and keywords evolve and are eclipsed fairly rapidly: simplification, social networks, enhanced-cognition, knowledge acquisition, knowledge discovery, big data, anticipatory analysis. These are some of the key kinds of ideas, or “targets” that designers would be tasked with toward their objectives of “making intelligence visible.” in order to more rapidly convey and streamline the working process for constructing informative representations we expand the jargon within the field. In addition, there has been an explosion of “information design art” where the display of the data is in itself an aesthetic end-point from the process—thus lending a veneer of the expressiveness atop the informativeness.
Yet, against this, we’ve remained reasonably consistent respecting the four kinds of papers we aim to publish: 1) information design process and practice, 2) taxonomies and typologies that build a language around things within any field of study or interest, 3) information processing through new or unlikely methods (in order to see new things) 4) unusual data sets processed through existent technologies (in order to see how standard tools can reveal new insight). Oh yes, there is a fifth category: information design as a medium of the artist and experimental information design (about two articles per year).
For this issue we are particularly proud to publish a magnificent taxonomic and “building’block” system of both structure and elementary imagery that supports the understanding of procedures within stem-cell research. This system (for non-profit usage) has already supported educational and communication objectives due to its elegance of form and visual cross-consistency. On the front of practice and procedure comes a report of a recent hackathon supported by PIIM; the author provides a primer of the hackathon process through observation and feedback of the participants. Our third paper looks into GIS through the scoring of image gathering frequencies. What makes an area “interesting,” from strategic or objective (or subjective) reasons? As we close out this year, we again thank our contributors, and readers, for helping us tune our vision while riding the ever expanding information design field.
Jihoon Kang, Publisher, and William Bevington, Editor-in-Chief
Parsons Journal for Information Mapping
by Richard Wheeler, MFA
by Saskia van Manen, PhD
by Julia Wargaski, BFA
Big data, geographic information systems (GIS), geospatial analysis, landscape, photography
Points of Interest is an ongoing data-driven landscape photography project that explores how technology-specifically satellite imagery, computer mapping systems, and spatial analysis tools and techniques—can be used to define and explore our sense of place. By layering the geographic footprints of years of satellite imagery I create “interest surfaces” that show areas that have been photographed frequently from space, areas that have been photographed infrequently from space, and all the areas in between. I then travel to the areas of high and low collection or interest and photograph the landscapes that I find there. This work examines how technology creates new views of the landscape that expose tensions between of our increasing fixation on location and our dwindling sense of place. Images and documentation in this article include new work in this project commissioned for the 20th International Symposium on Electronic Art being held in Dubai in October and November (http://www.isea2014.org).
Richard Wheeler is an artist. He is an adjunct faculty member in Art Center College of Design’s Media DesignPractices: Field program and a lecturer in UCLA’s Department of Design Media Arts.
Data visualization, hackathon, information mapping, interdisciplinary design, polar, polar data, prototyping, real-time design
This paper presents a reflexive case study of a two-day data hackathon and elucidates challenges and opportunities for transdisciplinary practice. The hackathon was sponsored by the United States National Science Foundation Polar Cyberinfrastructure Program and therefore specifically targeted information mapping of polar data. Its objective was to enhance end-to-end workflow through a focus on development of open-source cyberinfrastructure and tools for supporting analysis and visualization of selected polar datasets. The large interest from early career researchers and high level of satisfaction from workshop participants, particularly related to the transdisciplinary nature of the event, suggests significant potential for the use of information mapping hackathons as a process of building community and advancing (polar) science. However, to realize this potential, observed social and technical barriers arising from communication, education, human factors, and the hackathon structure need to be considered.
Saskia van Manen is a researcher whose core interest is deploying design as a strategy to mitigate the effects of natural hazards through disaster risk management. She is based at the Open University (UK) and is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Parsons Institute for Information Mapping (USA). Her current focus is on enhancing scientific communication related to natural hazards through information design. She holds a PhD in volcanology from the Open University (UK) an MA in Product Design and Innovation from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UK) and M.Sci. in Geophysics from Imperial College London (UK).
Biological illustrations, biotechnological processes, educational tools, information design, information mapping, medical harmonizing, stem cells, stem cell research, symbol language, symbol semantic visualizing, visual systems for navigation
By designing with clarity and integrity, aesthetics and information can be effectively combined to inspire users to rapidly glean knowledge and understanding from complex subjects. By illuminating the functional truths between things, good design can empower others — of any age or origin — to discover solutions and yield the means to tenaciously resolve problems. These beliefs have sparked a shift in my practice within what I call “bedrock knowledge areas,” and the communication systems to convey and publish these. As an educator, my goals are continually set on discovering and stretchingeach student’s highest abilities: adaptability, visual and intellectual acuity, design adeptness, and tenacity. I strive to provide an environment where choice and experimentation, through visualization modeling, will be the catalyst for these qualities to arise and be fulfilled. As one individual under a multifaceted collaborative group grant, Stem Cells Across the Curriculum (SCAC), there emerged an excellent opportunity to immerse myself in such bedrock knowledge — biological content. The designer’s capability to dive deeply into ostensibly complex areas of science, and provide meaningful contribution through information design, is dependent on their capabilities establishing hierarchies and taxonomies against the available resource and resultant modeling acumen. Developing effective educational tools, which will pass on key learning moments through the creation, integration, and balancing of these hierarchical systems, image assemblies, and typographical “shifts,” is the objective. It is often an all-consuming endeavor, involving time and meticulous care that well exceeds available funding, yet becomes an investment in its own right. The objective must be to create visualizations that achieve the highest possible level, based upon all known research, which reveals an empowering insight into the context of the knowledge with a commensurate capability to understand the specific. With these kinds of objectives and methods at hand, a designer can create the single element (the grammar) that combines, through a highly structured semantic, to create visual intelligence that is at once specific and contextual. This paper follows a case study where single visual elements throughout are taken through highly structured iterations for “Sources of Stem Cells” diagrams and related compositionally detailed information sheets.
Julia Wargaski is an Assistant Professor of Communication Design at Parsons School of Design within The School of Art, Media and Technology. Her specialization is in information design and design processes. As Art Director, Information Designer, and Illustrator, Julia collaborated with Katayoun Chamany and Lianna Schwartz-Orbach, two biologists/content and content flow creators, to co-create the Sources of Stem Cells Radial Infographic and twelve related ZoomGraphics (Detailed Sheets). Julia transformed biotechnological processes associated with stem cell research into intuitive information design narratives that highlight the provenance, manipulation, and use of each stem cell type and its associated therapeutic and scientific potential — information design as educational tools. She contributed Art Direction, Design and Co-development of educational materials for Princeton Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and Application, Information and Visual design for the Ripple, Explore and Map views for the Shape of Change online archive in collaboration with Director Melanie Crean. She was Co-author, Art Director, and Information Designer for development of the "Trees of Trade: Biodiversity and Extinction" educational game interface visualizations and transitions showing progression of information design narratives and how to ‘play’ the data, based off of Katharina Seifert’s "Effects of Trade: Endangered Species of the Atlantic Rainforest," and in collaboration with Katharina Seifert, Preethi Chethan and Mike Edwards — in conjunction with the Data-play/Parsons PETLab. In addition to teaching multiple levels of information and undertaking research projects, Ms Wargaski pursues commercial programs and multiple practical applications, including Information Design & User Experience Design hybrid investigations — UX/UI. Ms Wargaski holds a BFA in Communication Design from Parsons School of Design and was educated as a User Experience Designer through General Assembly’s NYC User Experience Design Immersive.