One of my long term areas of interest is design in general but especially information visualization. Even one of my theses during was about aesthetically pleasing layout algorithms for trees/hierarchies (For you tech guys: Done in the mid eighties in LOOPS/Flavors/LISP and Smalltalk-80 on Apollo Workstations for application in an expert system shell).
Hence i was also always interested in the work of Edward Tufte, i own printed exemplars of both “Envisioning Information” and “Visual Display of Quantitative Information” and follow his “Ask E.T.” forum regulary.
Hence a couple of years i ago i was struck by a short news report about an artist that recently died under somewhat “indifferent circumstances”. The hand-crafting diagrams that envision complex networks of relations in such a beautiful and informative manner that it is generally considered as art. Unfortunately i didn’t hear/remember his name. Since i wanted to know more about him and his work i was lost.
A couple of half hearted-attempts googling with various search term i deemed clever didn’t reveal a name. So this weekend i finally embarked on the mission to find the name of the artist. After quite some time i finally found the right links leading to his name (as some as you may have known from my description): Mark Lombardi and a book about called “Mark Lombardi Global Networks”.
I immediateley ordered it at Amazon and it arrived yesterday. The book is more or less the catalogue for an exhibition traveling through north america for quite some years now. Unfortunately it isn’t coming to europe. I can wholeheartily recommend it for everyone even remotely interested in the the topic of envisioning information.
AFAIK it is a very long way until algorithms exist that are able to even remotely resemble the aesthetic quality and information density of Mark Lombardis’ drawings.
Unfortunately, i couldn’t find a large print poster of one of his drawings. So if somebody out there knows where to get one, drope me a note.
Update: I had the chance to see what i suppose to be an original print of george w. bush, harken energy and jackson stevens at USA Today, an exhibition at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. To my surprise the print was much smaller than i anticipated, not much bigger than the version in the book
The Bivings Group recently published a report on the state of the use of the internet by america’s newspapers.
It summarizes the use of web and web2.0 features used on 100 newspapers websites.
Here are their key findings:
- 76 of the nation’s top 100 newspapers offer RSS feeds on their websites. All of these feeds were partial feeds. … In addition, none of these feeds included advertisements. …
- Only 31 of the papers offer podcasts on their websites.
- 80 of the papers offer at least one, and often multiple, reporter blogs. On 67 of the newspaper websites (83 percent of the blogs), readers can commetn on these reporter blog entries.
- … Only 19 of the newspapers allowed readers to comment on articles, …
- Major Web tools pentrated both the most and the least circulated papers. …
PDF version of the study at the Bivings Blog.
Other have joined in for similar studies for Italy and the UK.
A more collaborative effort using a Wiki was started in Germany. I think this is the right approach in order to keep up with new and additional fetures as well as modifications on the newspapers websites. Maybe the findings should be integrated into the the respective wikipedia entries for the newspapers.
I finally took the time to read through the short article from BBC Research (approx. 10 pages in large print). It is not only interesting from its technical content and conclusions but even more by the underlying economical assumptioms and observations. They show, that at least some media companies are looking for a cooperation with the blogossphere, P2P etc. A reason for that may be that thios media company is not entirely profit-driven.
Some excerpts: (Complete Paper PDF)
The past 30 years have been an exciting time in entertainment technologies, network research, and online delivery. With the stealth rise of ubiquitous computing through mobile phones; the shrinking of the planet by audio and video conferencing via instant messaging; democratisation of news, knowledge and opinion reporting via wikis and blogs, the future appears to be even more exciting.
In Building Public Value, the BBC has committed to the delivery of BBC content to the British Public over this multitude of systems, in a way that is enjoyable, accessible and repurposable by the British Public in the way they choose.
Whilst this is an exciting and intriguing future, this does require a new evolution in the way large media such as video, and audio are stored, and delivered. This document explores this vision, and suggests a number of key challenges that need to be addressed along the way. These are however only the first steps into the 21st century that we are taking. In order to take the next steps we must meet these challenges head on, resolve to solve them and move forward. Our view is that this is a challenge that needs to be met in participation with industry and the community.
The key aim is to pull people’s awareness towards specific key problems which are thought to be very difficult, but achievable in a decade or two.
The sheer scale and scope of the problems caused by 20-60 million different items of content to be viewed simultaneously from the BBC, potentially online is a challenge that should be undertaken, but should not be undertaken lightly.
There are BBC projects underway looking at these challenges, but the scope of this document is larger. The challenges laid out in this document will exist, and need resolving – whether the BBC does it or asks industry to help. Clearly the ultimate solution will be a mix of both in areas of appropriate expertise.
BBC R&D projects exist that seek to address some of the issues laid out here. The Kamaelia & Dirac projects are aimed specifically at the some of the challenges in this document. BBC and Industry collaborations such as Share It! have been looking at issues related to these challenges. Some of these challenges naturally fit elsewhere with other groups.
However, the reality is that the BBC and industry cannot assume that the public will follow. P2P has shown that the Internet Community – that is anyone competent, willing and connected to the network – will go their own way if the public is not involved. There is almost always a better way.