Today was one of those days I won’t forget very soon: today was Visualizing Europe day, and many enthusiasts, practitioners, researchers and users of data visualization gathered in Brussels for an inspiring day of talks and meeting interesting and kind people from the data visualization community. The day was divided into 3 sessions:
- the power and potential of data visualization
- a vision for Europe
- where do we go from here?
The first sessions showed some of the best works currently created in data visualization: Santiago Ortiz from Bestiaro showed the power of the visual programming paradigm of Impure can be used to create sophisticated data visualizations in minutes (did I say minutes? seconds!)
Next, Moritz Stefaner showed two of his recent and impressive projects: the Better Life Index project that was recently launched by the OECD. And his previous famous project: Notabilia, which shows deletions on Wikipedia.
Enrico Bertini gave a fantastic talk from a research perspective and explained different approaches of making a data visualization for the public and for the tiny group of people who are actually solving real world problems with data visualization. A quote that was tweeted numerous times immediately: “data visualization is useless, it is indispensable”. He also highly recommends the book: “How Maps Work” (which of course is on my wishlist now!).
Last but not least of this first sessions was Dave McCandless from Information is Beautiful. Dave showed some of his work, and a remarkable quote was: “I disagree with Moritz, I’m not looking for 1000 stories, I’m looking for 1 story that’s interesting”.
After a short coffee break, session 2 started with Gregor Aisch showing how he creates data visualizations as the Open Spending project for the Open Knowledge Foundation. He proposed a new approach for data visualization, namely ‘open data visualization’, which is open source + open data + open to community. An fascinating idea I’d like to learn more about.
Assaf Biderman from the MIT Senseable City Lab impressed us with some of their cutting edge projects they do together with governments and cities, like the Trash Tag project which tracks and visualizes where trash is being transported all over the USA after people have emptied their trash bin. Another project that keeps impressing me is the Copenhagen Wheel, an augmentation to bicycles that allows bikers to track their own performance, and at the same time measures various air conditions of the city. This data is collected and visualized to understand more about the city’s air pollution.
Salvatore Iaconesi from Art is Open Source elaborated on how the artistic world uses data and visualization to change paradigms, for example in supermarkets: while in the supermarket data is visualized on your iPhone and shows the geographic origins of the chemical compounds of your products.
Last but not least, Peter Miller from ITO World had to rush through his slides where he showed some very compelling and sometimes fine-grained user contributions to the Open Streetmap project. It’s impressive to see how user contributions can lead to sometimes more correct maps than non-crowd-sourced maps.
The final session was a discussion between Franco Accordino and Jean-Claude Burgelman from the Europen Commission and Toby Green from the OECD. The main subject was: what did they take from today’s sessions, and what will they do with it. It was very good to see that the value of data visualization was recognized, and that the EU sees data visualization as one possible and valuable way to create new knowledge, which is very important.
Finally, the day was finished by meeting so many people from the data visualization community. It was amazing to meet so many people whom I’ve been in contact with for quite some time now. Thanks Visualizing.org for organizing this wonderful day, and everybody who has contributed. It was a memorable experience!