This week I did a lot of looking. I looked particularly at visualisations of networks. Visual Complexity turned up in the mail after I finally ordered it so I spent time poring over that. I also collected more images of murmurations, along with visualisations.
I found I was drawn to visualisations that had rough edges. That is, where the lines weren’t necessarily smooth, where there was evidence of organic or uncontrolled movement. Although the data is not controlled (or shonked up) on most if not all of the visualisations in that book, some images make it look almost too perfect, too smoothed over.
Examples of the rougher: Kunal Anand’s “Looks del.icio.us” caught my eye because of the colour. It’s so damn beautiful. I looked at it again and again before I even read the caption that revealed what it actually visualised.
Another: Jeremy Wood’s “Lawn Seasons”. As a keen lawn mower, one who has studied the patterns others use and who takes great care to be neat despite a seemingly genetic inability to be so, Wood’s work was not only visually appealing but I could relate to the way in which he collected the data and what it might mean.
A third: a drawing machine that records the movement of a pinball machine. I realised this is what I liked about some of these visualisations, they were “drawing machines’: the images evolved.
I want a visualisation that responds, that seems to evolve. A visualisation that reacts to and invites interaction, visual evidence that the collection is alive.
A murmuration is not a map
Whilst looking at these pieces I saw Marco Quaggiotto’s “Knowledge Cartography“. It drew me in because it seemed similar in aim to what I am trying to do. On closer inspection I realised it was quite different. Although the visualisation implies movement, given its shape, a map (cartography) could be seen as an attempt to pin something down. Maps do change but they represent a body of land, of water, of knowledge at a given time. They can imply relations but I am not certain they can visualise them in the manner I need.
I began to think that maps are not suitable for what I am trying to do. A murmuration is not a map. A murmuration moves in relation to outside forces, a predator for instance, but movement is also governed by internal relationships. Maps provide a visualisation of what is not how that is is shaped by outside forces or its potential for movement.
This may seem obvious and perhaps a small thing but it moves me ever so closer to getting more of a handle on the potential of the murmuration, even if only by defining what it is not.
Show and tell
- Flylight by Studio DRIFT
“FLYLIGHT is an interactive light installation composed of a minimum of 180 glass tubes. The glass tubes that light up and respond to the viewer are inspired by the behavior of a flock of birds and the fascinating patterns they seem to make randomly in the air.”