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3: Initial Exploration

Coming to the program I wanted to explore the area of interactive information visualization. Since undergrad this topic was in the back of my mind, but when it came to writing a first proposal it was hard to find the right angle to it. To narrow the topic down I started to think about it through the lens of my personal experiences of coming from Germany to the United States.

Moving to another country with a different language made me think about communication. I realized that the pure exchange of information is not as satisfactory as communication that leads to conversation. It is not enough to be understood, it is important to be able to articulate your exact thoughts and feelings. But not only the interchange of information is providing communication, I learned that the cultural background should not be underestimated. It provides different experiences and knowledge which leads to different mental models.

This led me to the first thesis statement with the question of “How can the speech-language therapy be enhanced in order to overcome difficulties involved with a speech disorder?” I wrote the statement in May 2010 but realized during the summer that my initial idea of making information visual drifted to far away. What I did do though was starting to write a blog.

On June 18th I wrote a post about “Vicon Revue” a wearable camera that passively takes a picture every 30 seconds. I really loved the idea of capturing data of your life and was interested in the “idea of digitally saving memories of a lifetime”1. (Looking back I am actually amazed that I wrote this, because it became my thesis topic.) I also wrote about my disappointment in how the Vicon Revue is displaying the data (a stop motion movie) and my interest in using a huge amount of data in a meaningful way.

Looking back I realize that I am not really interested in pure information visualization but storytelling. I want to know how data can relate to humans, how the data can even be more human. The second point that made me really think was the personal space. I feel like the media is driven by social networks and public spaces with almost no room for personal space and with all the digital data that we owe and that is very personal we only have little meaningful ways to save this data. So I wonder, where is our digital personal space?

I am interested in data that tells us stories and that shows a great balance between personal space and public space (like social networks).

Sketches I made while watching “Journalism in the Age of Data” – “A video report on data visualization as a storytelling medium”.2

Post-it brainstorm session on topics I am interested in, why I am interested in them and possible topics of further exploration:

  1. Kristin Gräfe, “Thesis Bucket Blog”, June 2010 []
  2. Geoff Mc Ghee, “Journalism in the Age of Data”, Knight Journalism Fellowship, produced during 2009-2010, []