“Inviting Inquiry and Exploration Through Data Visualization”
Science, in the popular imagination, is about finding answers to questions. Scientists make discoveries, develop theories, and deliver those discoveries and theories to neutral audiences with an interest in the truth as backed up by science. Well-designed data visualization (dataviz), by contrast, can invite more questions than it answers. It has the particular quality of allowing its viewers, users and makers the ability to generate new kinds of questions, and to put them in a better place to answer those questions. By the creation of objects to think with, dataviz opens up landscapes of possibility for discussion and inquiry that can help scientists to both do their work and better communicate their work to broader audiences.
The focus of dataviz can be understood to exist along a spectrum of abstraction, from facts at the most concrete end, to wisdom, knowledge, and even vision as the most aspirational place for dataviz to work. Each of these kinds of work requires a different approach. Through our client-facing and research practice at Stamen, we engage in multiple kinds of dataviz approaches across this spectrum. Much of this work is done for and with scientists across a broad range of fields, from metagenomics to an atlas of human emotions.
This talk will illustrate and examine examples from multiple points along the rich and varied possibility space that opens up when science and dataviz work together.
When it comes to communication and visual interfaces, what you lose in detail, you can gain in power. This can be a difficult notion for the scientific mind to navigate. Well-designed dataviz can help find ways for scientists to navigate the multiple competing interests and priorities inherent in both communication to non-scientists and exploratory data-rich interfaces.
I founded Stamen Design in 2001 and since then have served as the organization’s Founder and Creative Director. Stamen is an internationally recognized data visualization design studio based in San Francisco, California. We develop projects for a broad range of clients locally, nationally and internationally, including National Geographic, Facebook, and The Dalai Lama. We average 50 projects a year, and are recognized as having helped to define the emerging medium of interactive data visualization and online cartography. Our work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and we have exhibited nationally and internationally in museums and galleries worldwide, from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to the Art Institute of Chicago to the Design Museum in London. At the Information is Beautiful Awards in 2012, Stamen won the Gold Award for Data Journalism and the Most Beautiful award for its “Home & Away” project for CNN. In that year Stamen also won the Information is Beautiful “Best Studio” prize. Stamen is the mrecipient of the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Interaction Design for 2017.
In 2007, I joined the Board of Directors of the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is to bring innovative thinking to medicine, education and the arts. In 2017 we invested $6M US in Bay Area arts programs, $6M US in research to cure people with Crohn’s disease, and $6M US in helping to improve child literacy in Oakland, California. Through this work, I founded and am on the Board of Directors of the Community Arts Stabilization Trust, which provides affordable space for artists in San Francisco’s Central Market district by purchasing downtown buildings and helping arts groups buy them back. We have raised over $30M US in philanthropic and other funds and are in plans to reserve over 100,000 square feet of affordable space for artists in San Francisco.
I attended Cooper Union in New York City and graduated from The New School with a Bachelor of Arts in the History and Philosophy of Technology in 1993.