We don’t often think of how invisible data would look like if it was visually represented, but the truth is data exists and it often operates without people turning their minds to the different methods, techniques and tools that could be used to visualise it. For example, I, like every other person in our modern society, use Wi-Fi and 4G on a daily basis (in fact, I’ve come to learn that I can’t live without it! *uh-oh*) and I know it’s always present, but I never really took the time to think how it would look like if I could see it with my eyes. I never thought about how lines could represent it, what colour those lines would be… but I’m willing to say with 100% certainty that if you’re reading this (unless you’re Luke or Andrew… haha), then at least up till now, you haven’t either.
The complexity of visualisation was made obvious to me upon reading Timo’s article about dashed lines (Timo, 2006). I can honestly say that while I’ve utilised dashed lines in my artworks, designs and university assignments, I’ve never really given much thought to how it is, in the words of Timo, “clear and simple visual magic” with the ability to “express something three/four dimensional in two dimensions” but now, this rings true – just thinking about my year 10 math textbook and how every exercise on measuring volume would include boxes compromised of dotted lines and straight lines (Timo, 2006). Dotted lines and dashes, something so deceivingly simple, indeed has the capability to represent movement, paths, expectations (wow!), anticipated action – it has the power to represent relationships, accentuated by colours and other graphical qualities (Timo, 2006)… So really, visualisation is not just simply making something invisible visible – while that is something it does, the process is a lot more multifaceted than I initially assumed.
This lead me to think about apps on my iPhone that I use on a daily basis and made me realise how the process of visualisation is something that I engage with on a day to day basis but never really appreciated its complexity. Take my trusty Nike running app for example:
Every time I go for a run, it visualises not only the route I took through the use of lines but it also displays the intensity of my run through the colours utilised – namely, when I’m taking it slow, it’s green, as I progress with more intensity, it turns to yellow or red. Mindblowing!
While the process of visualising my workout routine is interesting, nothing is more interesting and highlights the convoluted nature of visualisation than live video mixing. It “address[es] a hunger for immersive, synaestic sensory experience where aural and visual elements work together to create a whole that is something beyond the sum of the parts (Gates, 2008). When one goes to a uni party or a club, they experience visualisation at play. Every strobe of light is indicative of the the drop of the bass, the work of the synthesizer, the general tune being played. I think the line which strikes me the most as it hits home is Gate’s statement that it is a “felling of immediacy and immersion that is so rewarding… the richness of dialogue between technology, spatial architecture and human expression” (Gates, 2008).
I think, I will end this post by saying that the complexity of visualisation just got even more amazing after looking at the infoaesthetics of 200 calories… so this is how much I’m eating… every time I snack. How does this impacts society? Well I think the impact of visualisation is best summed up by Debord, “when this contradiction emerges in the spectacle, it is itself contradicted by a reversal of its meaning: the division it presents is unitary, while the unity it presents is divided” (Debord, n.d.).
Debord, G (n.d.) ‘Unity and Division Within Appearances’, The Society of the Spectacle <http://www.bopsecrets.org/SI/debord/3.htm>
Gates, Carrie (2009) ‘Vague Terrain 09: Rise of the VJ’, <http://vagueterrain.net/journal09>
Timo, A (2006) ‘the dashed line in use’, <http://www.nearfield.org/2006/09/the-dashed-line-in-use>