Term 2 Field: The Significance of Information

For my second term, I chose the field module The Significance of Information. I have had a particular interest in data art ever since I saw the Big Bang Data exhibition in London around a year ago, so picking The Significance of Information seemed an obvious choice for field. Whilst the exhibitions at Big Bang Data, such as Dear Data by Stefanie Posavec and Giorgia Lupi certainly fired up my interest in data art to begin with, my focus and ideas surrounding the topic shifted steadily from ‘Big Data’ shown at the Big Bang exhibit to data visualisation as a whole, from the likes of David McCandless and multiple sources on the Information Is Beautiful Awards website. I ended up taking particular inspiration from photographical data visualizers Peter Olsen and Sarah Illenberger.

I found working with data a lot harder than I had anticipated. It was hard to configure novel ways of displaying data- sets without resorting to run-of-the-mill graphs, perhaps with just a graphical coating to it. I also found working with photography a challenge. A lot of my ideas going into the photography studio required me to set up specific shots which I had worked out and planned in theory but were actually very hard to pull off in practice; this lead me down the route of configuring my posters in Photoshop instead which lead to slightly less experimental outcomes than I would have liked. I am however happy that I used photography. I think it would have been very easy to make a vector- based infographic style visualisation; this would have played more to my strengths, even. I wanted to explore something more outside of my comfort zone for this project, however, even though my lack of experience in the medium may have been my downfall.

Going forwards, I want to revisit this project starting in the photography studio; I think with some more prep- time and a new set of McDonald’s fast food I could reattempt some of the more difficult shots, with as much done in- situ rather than on Photoshop as possible. Perhaps before that, an overhaul of my visual system itself wouldn’t go amiss; I am not sure that the link between Americanism, fast- food and terrorism is apparent enough. I need to sit down and think of a way to create a greater link between the themes in order to make the posters more successful. This may even be as simple as making changes to the copy.

I think my primary take- away from this field module is an appreciation for data visualisation; as a graphic designer I have experience encoding messages visually using visual metaphore and storytelling, and I think doing this with statistics to form a greater message is only a couple degrees of separation from this. This module has encouraged me to continue to explore data visualisation as a creative anvenue; I have plans outside of this project to continue to refine my abilities to code so I can write something to pull masses of data from internet based sources and work with that, possibly as a portfolio piece.

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