visualization | MIT Center for Civic Media

Visualization tools offer new ways to inform and improve understanding. Showing data in relation to geography, the passage of time, and other contexts helps individuals and communities to prioritize and weigh the meaning of facts. Visualization can refer to mapping, locative media, visual data, or many other ways of showing data graphically.

Controversy Mapper

Project Status: 

How does a media controversy become the only thing any of us talk about? Using the Media Cloud platform, we're reverse-engineering major news stories to visualize how ideas spread and media frames change over time, and whose voices dominate a discussion.

VizThink Overview

I do these live drawings while people are speaking in order to demonstrate their ideas. Orginally mentored by James Carlson, I started doing visual thinking in earnest when someone turned left in front of me, causing a shattered radius. Since, it's become my primary method of note taking, and a wonderful way to augment written notes.

Different Things to Show


James Rojas at Codesign Studio

James Rojas gave a guest spot at the Codesign Studio a couple weeks back. The full entry is here, but I'm particularly pleased with the vizthink that came out of it:

What We Watch

Project Status: 

A new tool for watching how popular videos spread online.

Mural-ing Our Way to Data Literacy

Last Tuesday Groundwork Somerville officially dedicated their South Street Farm and with it, the exciting new data mural that the Green Team has worked so hard to finish painting.

Activities for Building Visual Literacy

There are a lot of people talking about "Visual Literacy" right now. Shazna Nessa shared some thoughts from a journalistic point of view on the Mozilla Source blog recently. Her discussion focused on how data visualizers should consider the limitations and affordances of visual depictions of information. I'd like to offer a complementary response from a constructionist's point of view. Certainly the journalists and new explainers need to understand how to best use the tools at hand, but in addition we can help the "audience" build visual literacy by helping them create their own visual presentations of their information. The creative act of telling an information-based story offers everyone the best way to understand the affordances of various visualization tools, in addition to making them more aware consumers of this new "visual grammar". So how do you do this? What kind of fun activities can we do with people help them work with and present information?

Going to Data Camp!

I recently attended the 2013 Info-Activism Camp as a facilitator on the "Curation" track.  The Tactical Technology Collaborative organized the event for over 100 information activists from around the world.  Everyone was there to learn about Evidence & Influence.  Yes, it was awesome.

I've mostly been working on Data Therapy in isolation, because I haven't been able to find others working on capacity building for creative data presentation with community organizations. That all changed at an isolated camp in Northern Italy a few weeks ago!  I connected with a network of technologists, activists, and rabble-rousers that were thinking deeply about this topic.


Postmarked Ignite talk - Dystopian spaces + visualizing disempowerment

I gave an Ignite talk today at the MIT-Knight Civic Media conference (#civicmedia). Wow, that went so fast! I didn't quite share all I wanted, but if I could sit down with you over a cup of coffee, this is what I would have said. If I may be cheesy for a moment, these were really my most heartfelt points. So, my lucky ducks—read on for the full spiel!

I’m going to tell you about an exploration that really began with an interest in public space and a pet question of mine: Where does a postcard sit between a letter and an online petition?

Social Justice through Data

Eyeo Festival logo

In my last post about this year's Eyeo Festival, I talked about the theme of "Respecting the Data." Another theme baked into several panels and presentations was how to use data for social justice. In fact, many of the same, deep thinkers at Eyeo who weighed in on the former theme did so from a position of thinking about how data can be used for social justice, social change, and activism. An interest in creating work that could served as instruments of political messaging or even audience empowerment seemed to be shared not only by those who did such work in their day job, but also those spending a large chunk of their time on client work eager to employ their skills on meaningful side projects.