By Kurt Fendt on June 3, 2010
Visualize this: over 250 participants, conversing, asking questions, discussing ideas both old and new, generating cross-disciplinary dialogue on the methods, aesthetics, and implications of data visualization in the humanities and social sciences. From the auditorium and atrium on the ground floor of MIT’s old Media Lab to the roof deck of MIT’s new Media Lab building, humanists, visual artists, computer scientists, librarians and many more engaged in an intense weekend: 3 days, 4 keynotes, 63 presentations, 250 participants – HyperStudio’s inaugural humanities+digital conference.
The keynotes – Yes, there were quite a few. And strength, in this case, was in numbers. Each talk opened up a distinct space and perspective on visualization. In sum, what emerged was not only the substance of their talks, but the overlaps, gaps and connections between them.
Johanna Drucker‘s opening keynote set the tone for the conference by arguing for a distinct humanistic approach to visualization through a focus on “capta” (data that is taken rather than “data” that is given) to retain complexity as much as subjectivity in mapping, charting, and interpreting information.
Ben Shneiderman illustrated how standard visualization principles such as overviews, user control, and well-designed interfaces are equally applicable to cultural heritage data while…
Martin Wattenberg discussed how information visualization is transforming itself as the notion of “data” is changing with a shifting focus on more complex data such as conversations, music, or photographs, and finally
Lev Manovich argued for the visualization and analysis of very large visual data sets to discover previously unseen patterns in cultural data.
These arguments echoed throughout the conference in many of the sessions, not to mention post-session coffee breaks. These formal and informal conversations formed a compelling discourse throughout the conference, undulating from radical opinions to frustration over disciplinary blinders to excitement regarding the emergence of new ideas and potential paradigms. Check out the conference Twitter feed – #hdigital – to witness some of the discussion. Or check out the Flickr streams of some of our participants, including Samuel Huron and Jean-Baptiste Labrune (whose photo is placed above – thanks JB!) If you have photos from the conference, feel free to share them with the conference Flickr group.
The closing panel – Lev identified four areas that need further exploration, and we might take this as a starting place for future cross-disciplinary dialogue on visualization in the humanities:
- Object vs. process
- Meaning vs. pattern
- Statistics vs. data mining
- Standardization vs. uniqueness
But the real gems of the conference were the participants, their papers, presentations and demos. And so, thanks to technology, we can share almost all of the conference sessions online. Soon we’ll be posting the recordings of all keynotes along with a selection from the paper sessions and short presentations. Stay tuned.
Stay tuned and stay engaged. To continue the discussion that emerged at the conference, HyperStudio has a few ideas – and we welcome more. We’d like to continue online discussions through HyperStudio’s blog, (maybe have some guest bloggers?). We’re looking into a formal publication. Also, for those in the area, we’re planning a series of workshops at MIT this coming fall. Want to be involved – email us!
Since the end of the conference, we’ve playing around in the office, experimenting with ways to visually represent the whole conference. Fruits of this labor should be appear in our next blog post…
Above all – thanks to everyone for a great conference!
Kurt Fendt and Madeleine Elish