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Sticky Data and Superstitious Patterns: 

Visualization beyond Cognitivism
Dietmar Offenhuber, PhD
Northeastern University...
Seeing as Thinking
"My contention is that the cognitive operations called thinking are
not the privilege of mental process...
.. he describes his new theory of how the neocortex (the thinking part of
the brain) works: as a self-organizing hierarchi...
“A decade-old toasted cheese sandwich said
to bear an image of the Virgin Mary has sold
on the eBay auction website for $2...
Gizmodo - iPhoto Discovers Face in Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Riegler, Alexander. 2007. “Superstition in the Machine.” In Anticipatory Behavior in Adaptive Learning
Systems, edited by ...
Gregor Aisch, 2011
Accountability Technologies
collecting data
coordinating volunteers
spreading the message
Guttenplag activity, visualizati...
1. Sticky vs. non-sticky data

considering the context of data generation
2. Indexicality and evidence

visualization beyo...
Sticky vs. non-sticky data
considering the context of data generation
Masaki Fujihata, Impressing Velocity, ICC, Tokyo 1992
wegzeit series
(2000-2002)
interactive software
Sonar 2002, Barcelona, ES
ISEA 2002, Nagoya, JP
Transmediale 2003, Berlin,...
The meaning is
in the context
Drucker, Johanna. 2011. “Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display.” Digital Humanities Qua...
Sorting Out Cities
Dietmar Offenhuber & Ars Electronica Futurelab
Miraikan Museum Tokyo, 2014
Video by YouTube users: Shunichi Kitamura, barmaglot0
Cities occupy 3% of the earth’s land surface. If
all urban areas would be combined in one large
city, it would be slightly...
53% of the global population lives in cities;
more than half of the global population lives in
Southeast Asia.
Data:
Cente...
Grey Water Footprint
www.waterfootprint.org
Population Density
www.fao.org
Wage Density (Sweden).
(Charlotta Mellander, Ke...
NASA black marble
dataset
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/NightLights/
“even after factoring out country and
year fixed effects the simple correlation
between the standard deviation and
mean of...
Sticky data: user-generated data resists the
transcendence of context
Categorizations and design
Peter Morville (2014)
trashsidewalk
street
left
pick
early
picked
pickup
days
bags
Topic 11
illegal
dumping
street
parking
sign
light
sidewalk
p...
Opacity	
through	
transparency
Urban Entropy (2015), Dietmar Offenhuber, Ars Electronica Center
Indexicality and evidence
visualization beyond the symbolic convention
Peircean Semiology revisited
iconic
symbolic
indexical
Peirce, Charles Sanders, Nathan Houser, and Christian J. W. Kloesel...
iconic
symbolic
indexical
0
50
100
April May June July
0
50
100
April June
?
Kamel Makhloufi “function”, 2010
https://www.flickr.com/photos/melkaone/5121285002/
Wilks, Kiesl, Moser, 2007, Garden of Eden, Ars Electronica 2007
West Elevator
near Dunkin Donuts
descends to commuter rail
North Elevator
near northern entrance
descends to Northeastern ...
Lorenzo Scarpelli, Xiaxin Chen, Sound Identity 2015
Lorenzo Scarpelli, Xiaxin Chen. Sound Identity. 2015
Design principles of indexical visualization:
framing, not mapping a phenomenon
Offenhuber, Dietmar, and Orkan Telhan. 201...
infrastructure legibility and governance
how representations mediate governance of systems
Folk theories
Kempton, Willett. 1986. “Two Theories of Home Heat Control.” Cognitive Science 10 (1): 75–90.
Trash Track - Senseable City Lab 2009. Image: Christophe Chung
Trash Track - Senseable City Lab 2009. image: Dietmar Offenhuber
Paths of 2 Printer Cartridges
Items reported from this facility between Oct. 22 and Nov. 8. 	
some objects for several days. Most items came through the...
IMPROSTRUCTURE
Dietmar Offenhuber (NU), Katja Schechtner (ADB), Julia Nebrija (Manila)
Photos & video: Konstantin Jagsch
Black market of electricity - Paco, Manila
Ad-hoc repairs, lighting hybrids (K. Jagsch)
Infrastructure Semiotics
Bgy. 849 entrance, Paco Manila
The representation of infrastructure shapes its
governance.
Offenhuber, Dietmar. (in press). Waste Is Information - Infras...
Paradigm 1 Paradigm 2 Paradigm 3
Metaphor of
interaction
Interaction as man-
machine coupling
Interaction as information
c...
Sticky Data and Superstitious Patterns: Visualization beyond Cognitivism
Sticky Data and Superstitious Patterns: Visualization beyond Cognitivism
Sticky Data and Superstitious Patterns: Visualization beyond Cognitivism
Sticky Data and Superstitious Patterns: Visualization beyond Cognitivism
Sticky Data and Superstitious Patterns: Visualization beyond Cognitivism
Sticky Data and Superstitious Patterns: Visualization beyond Cognitivism
Sticky Data and Superstitious Patterns: Visualization beyond Cognitivism
Sticky Data and Superstitious Patterns: Visualization beyond Cognitivism
Sticky Data and Superstitious Patterns: Visualization beyond Cognitivism
Sticky Data and Superstitious Patterns: Visualization beyond Cognitivism
Sticky Data and Superstitious Patterns: Visualization beyond Cognitivism
Sticky Data and Superstitious Patterns: Visualization beyond Cognitivism
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Sticky Data and Superstitious Patterns: Visualization beyond Cognitivism

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Visualization is often exclusively treated as an affair between the eye and the mind, based on the idea that perceiving and thinking are forms of pattern recognition and computation. But patterns can be misleading, and visual languages play a much larger role in mediating our interactions, facilitating, and constraining our awareness of the systems we are embedded in. My work deals with the roles of visual representations for understanding and governing large urban systems. Using examples from remote sensing, waste systems, street lighting and others, I will discuss critical issues of working with data in the context of socio-technical systems.

Talk at the Data Visualization program at the New School, NY, Nov. 3, 2015

Published in: Data & Analytics
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Sticky Data and Superstitious Patterns: Visualization beyond Cognitivism

  1. 1. Sticky Data and Superstitious Patterns: 
 Visualization beyond Cognitivism Dietmar Offenhuber, PhD Northeastern University @dietoff offenhuber.net | northeastern.edu/visualization
  2. 2. Seeing as Thinking "My contention is that the cognitive operations called thinking are not the privilege of mental processes above and beyond perception but the essential ingredients of perception itself. I am referring to such operations as active exploration, selection, grasping of essentials, simplification, abstraction, analysis and synthesis, completion, correction, comparison, problem solving, as well as combining, separating, putting in context. There is no basic difference in this respect between what happens when a person looks at the world directly and when he sits with his eyes closed and ‘thinks’." Rudolf Arnheim, Visual Thinking, 1969
  3. 3. .. he describes his new theory of how the neocortex (the thinking part of the brain) works: as a self-organizing hierarchical system of pattern recognizers
  4. 4. “A decade-old toasted cheese sandwich said to bear an image of the Virgin Mary has sold on the eBay auction website for $28,000.” BBC news, Nov. 23, 2004
  5. 5. Gizmodo - iPhoto Discovers Face in Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
  6. 6. Riegler, Alexander. 2007. “Superstition in the Machine.” In Anticipatory Behavior in Adaptive Learning Systems, edited by Martin V. Butz, Olivier Sigaud, Giovanni Pezzulo, and Gianluca Baldassarre, 4520:57–72. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer. “Under normal conditions, humans construct information rather than process it. […] When it fails, cognition switches to pattern processing. There is a close relationship between pattern discovery and superstition, since humans and animals alike excel at finding structures where there are none.” 
 — Alexander Riegler
  7. 7. Gregor Aisch, 2011
  8. 8. Accountability Technologies collecting data coordinating volunteers spreading the message Guttenplag activity, visualization: User8, reproduced in: Offenhuber, Dietmar, and Katja Schechtner, eds. 2013. Accountability Technologies - Tools for Asking Hard Questions. Vienna: Ambra V.
  9. 9. 1. Sticky vs. non-sticky data
 considering the context of data generation 2. Indexicality and evidence
 visualization beyond symbolic conventions 3. System legibility
 how representations mediate governance of systems
  10. 10. Sticky vs. non-sticky data considering the context of data generation
  11. 11. Masaki Fujihata, Impressing Velocity, ICC, Tokyo 1992
  12. 12. wegzeit series (2000-2002) interactive software Sonar 2002, Barcelona, ES ISEA 2002, Nagoya, JP Transmediale 2003, Berlin, DE vectors online journal 2005
  13. 13. The meaning is in the context Drucker, Johanna. 2011. “Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 5 (1).
  14. 14. Sorting Out Cities Dietmar Offenhuber & Ars Electronica Futurelab Miraikan Museum Tokyo, 2014
  15. 15. Video by YouTube users: Shunichi Kitamura, barmaglot0
  16. 16. Cities occupy 3% of the earth’s land surface. If all urban areas would be combined in one large city, it would be slightly larger than the size of Europe, or about half the size of Brazil. Data: MODIS 500-m map of global urban extent — Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE), University of Wisconsin-Madison
  17. 17. 53% of the global population lives in cities; more than half of the global population lives in Southeast Asia. Data: Center for International Earth Science Information Network - CIESIN - Columbia University. 2014. Gridded Population of the World, Version 4 (GPWv4)
  18. 18. Grey Water Footprint www.waterfootprint.org Population Density www.fao.org Wage Density (Sweden). (Charlotta Mellander, Kevin Stolarick, Zara Matheson, José Lobo)
  19. 19. NASA black marble dataset http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/NightLights/
  20. 20. “even after factoring out country and year fixed effects the simple correlation between the standard deviation and mean of lights is 0.88.” Henderson, J. Vernon, Adam Storeygard, and David N. Weil. 2009. Measuring Economic Growth from Outer Space. Working Paper 15199. National Bureau of Economic Research.
  21. 21. Sticky data: user-generated data resists the transcendence of context
  22. 22. Categorizations and design Peter Morville (2014)
  23. 23. trashsidewalk street left pick early picked pickup days bags Topic 11 illegal dumping street parking sign light sidewalk parked faded side Topic 6 abandoned bridge bike lane stickers remove sidewalk street paint car Topic 22 water sign street tire bentparking sidewalk park fountain cars Topic 7 dead tree trash sidewalk street trees gang park front ice Topic 20 street parking car parked sidewalk light parkbroken side blocking Topic 12 Latent topics within the general “Other” category
  24. 24. Opacity through transparency
  25. 25. Urban Entropy (2015), Dietmar Offenhuber, Ars Electronica Center
  26. 26. Indexicality and evidence visualization beyond the symbolic convention
  27. 27. Peircean Semiology revisited iconic symbolic indexical Peirce, Charles Sanders, Nathan Houser, and Christian J. W. Kloesel. 1998. The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings, 1893-1913. Indiana University Press.
  28. 28. iconic symbolic indexical 0 50 100 April May June July 0 50 100 April June ?
  29. 29. Kamel Makhloufi “function”, 2010 https://www.flickr.com/photos/melkaone/5121285002/
  30. 30. Wilks, Kiesl, Moser, 2007, Garden of Eden, Ars Electronica 2007
  31. 31. West Elevator near Dunkin Donuts descends to commuter rail North Elevator near northern entrance descends to Northeastern entrance East Elevator central breezeway descends to bus station upperbreezewayinsideelevatorlowerplatform Sonic VertiscapesSkye Morét with Sam Auinger, Bruce Odland & Katrin Emler coding assistance from Armin Akhavan Sonic Commons Workshop 2015 Northeastern University + Harvard GSD Constraints for generative code.The soundscapes below represent a 15 sec. recording of each space. frequency = step size intensity (dB) = diameter At Boston’s Ruggles Station I examined the sonic identity of spaces, listening closely to soundscapes and their patterns and signatures. While transiting normal pedestrian paths, I identified clear vertical sonic thresholds. Elevators function as temporary aural escapes—passages from one soundscape to the next. Below, I examine their sonic identity with generative code, allowing decibel and frequency levels to determine the visual scape. For us to transition, as a society, toward a multi-sensual approach to design, we must understand how our actions and use of space manifest themselves within the sonic commons. Skye Moret
  32. 32. Lorenzo Scarpelli, Xiaxin Chen, Sound Identity 2015
  33. 33. Lorenzo Scarpelli, Xiaxin Chen. Sound Identity. 2015
  34. 34. Design principles of indexical visualization: framing, not mapping a phenomenon Offenhuber, Dietmar, and Orkan Telhan. 2015. “Indexical Visualization – the Data-Less Information Display.” In Ubiquitous Computing, Complexity and Culture, edited by Ulrik Ekman, Jay David Bolter, and Lily Diaz. New York: Crc Press.
  35. 35. infrastructure legibility and governance how representations mediate governance of systems
  36. 36. Folk theories Kempton, Willett. 1986. “Two Theories of Home Heat Control.” Cognitive Science 10 (1): 75–90.
  37. 37. Trash Track - Senseable City Lab 2009. Image: Christophe Chung
  38. 38. Trash Track - Senseable City Lab 2009. image: Dietmar Offenhuber
  39. 39. Paths of 2 Printer Cartridges
  40. 40. Items reported from this facility between Oct. 22 and Nov. 8. some objects for several days. Most items came through the AW recycling center.
  41. 41. IMPROSTRUCTURE Dietmar Offenhuber (NU), Katja Schechtner (ADB), Julia Nebrija (Manila)
  42. 42. Photos & video: Konstantin Jagsch
  43. 43. Black market of electricity - Paco, Manila
  44. 44. Ad-hoc repairs, lighting hybrids (K. Jagsch)
  45. 45. Infrastructure Semiotics Bgy. 849 entrance, Paco Manila
  46. 46. The representation of infrastructure shapes its governance. Offenhuber, Dietmar. (in press). Waste Is Information - Infrastructure, Representation, and Accountability in the Digital Age. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
  47. 47. Paradigm 1 Paradigm 2 Paradigm 3 Metaphor of interaction Interaction as man- machine coupling Interaction as information communication Interaction as phenomenologically situated Central goal for interaction Optimizing fit between man and machine Optimizing accuracy and efficiency of information transfer Support for situated action in the world Typical questions of interest How can we fix specific problems that arise in interaction? What mismatches come up in communication between computers and people? What existing situated activities in the world should we support? How can we accurately model what people do? How do users appropriate technologies, and how can we support those appropriations? How can we improve the efficiency of computer use? How can we support interaction without constraining it too strongly by what a computer can do or understand? What are the politics and values at the site of interaction, and how can we support those in design? Harrison, Steve, Deborah Tatar, and Phoebe Sengers. 2007. “The Three Paradigms of HCI.” In Alt. Chi. Session at the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems San Jose, California, USA, 1–18. The third paradigm of HCI

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