Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Visualizing Garbage

At VizThink '09, Ole Qvist-Sorensen challenged the audience during his general session presentation, "Survival Academy: Imagining a Better World with Visual Language, Thinking and Practice," how we as visual thinkers could contribute to saving the world by putting our talents to work on global problems. That struck a chord with me, so one of my take-away goals from VizThink has been to get involved with at least one global issue that concerns me and apply visual thinking to address or raise awareness of the issue. Ole referenced Sylvia Earle's recent TED wish which struck yet another chord and so I've decided to apply some visual thinking to the issue of raising awareness of the plight of our oceans. My original thought was to develop an online visual explanation either as a presentation and/or video. But I thought it also might be interesting to start up a blog wherein I can capture some of content ideas for the explanation as well as publish snippets from the explanation as I develop them. So, I've started yet another blog. One of the compelling issue I think needs highlighting in the visual explanation is what's known as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. There's a lot of visuals and infographics available on the web to depict this, but I thought it would be fun to develop my own infographic. The first draft is below.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sixth Sense Visual Thinking

At the recent TED conference, Pattie Maes presented Sixth Sense, a wearable device that projects images on the users' environment, opening some really cool possibilities for data interaction with real life objects. Lots of people are comparing it to Minority Report, but to me it more closely resembles the world described by Vernor Vinge in Rainbows End. After reading Rainbows End and watching this TED presentation I suspect that this concept of our virtual world overlaid on top of our reality is what where we can expect virtual reality to go. Watch the presentation below and if you're intrigued by the idea, I recommend checking out Rainbows End.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

VizThink 09 Video

I brought along a tiny little video camera called the GoPro to VizThink and tried it out at Tuesday morning's general session. It's a wide angle lens camera with a limitation of 56 minutes of video and really limited audio. I set up the camera on the table during the general session and caught the preliminary announcements, presentations by Tableau and XPlane, some of the "live infographics" choreographed by Tom and part of Ole Qvist-Sorensen's Survival Academy presentation. Aside from speeding up the video, I didn't edit anything out. There's also no audio and it's pretty tough to see much of what's on the presenter's screen but I thought the video might be semi-interesting to folks who weren't there to just get a flavor of what it's like attending a VizThink general session.

VizThink 09 Tuesday Morning General Session from Jeff Bennett on Vimeo.

Monday, March 2, 2009

VizThink 09 Day 2 Quick Summary

Finally back home after family visit following VizThink in San Jose. Day 2 was a heavy hitter, packed with content from the start. The morning kicked off with general session, featuring some sponsor presentations followed by Ole Qvist-Sorensen presentation, Survival Academy: Imagining a Better World with Visual Language, Thinking and Practice. Ole asked us how we as visual thinkers could contribute to saving the world by putting our talents to work on global problems. He inspired me to get involved so I'm planning to get in touch with survivalacademy.org to see about producing some online visual explanations (videos or SlideShare presentations) to spotlight issues like Sylvia Earle's TED wish ("I wish you would use all means at your disposal -- films! expeditions! the web! more! -- to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.")

My choice for Tuesday morning breakout was Luke Wroblewski's Visual Communication for the Web. Luke has been a recognized leader on websites for years and having read both his books, I was really looking forward to this session. Luke's main takeaway was using a visual hierarchy to improve the communication value of a website. Visual hierarchy the main desired call for action on a page - you should deliberately prioritize visual weight using relationships to give meaning. I only sketched a quick mind map of the basic concepts, since he had so much material and went through it so fast. We examined and analyzed several before and after examples to highlight the basic principles. Hopefully Luke will post his presentation soon and I can link to it here.

Tuesday afternoon was another big influencer in the visual thinking world - Nancy Duarte. I recently finished Nancy's book, Slideology and I was looking forward to learning from another visual thinking master. This was a fantastic and fun session focused on Nancy's new methodology for developing compelling stories for presentations. Great theory combined with some fun hands-on exercises and some exemplary storytelling and a take home template for developing stories for presentations. Looking forward to putting it to use in developing online visual explanations.

Tuesday afternoon's general session was replaced by the snapshot sessions. Personally I thought these little mini sessions were a great idea. They gave everyone a chance to pick 4 out of 9 20 minute sessions. Very quick and very focused. I kicked off with Craig Berman's Collaborative Storyboarding, followed by Doug Ranahan's Beyond Fluff - Data Visualization for Business, then Ron Gould's VizThinking Marketing Strategy.

By the end of the day I was pretty saturated with information and starving for some good food and down time to let things soak in and process. Karen and I popped into Mezcal for a great alternative to mexican food - featuring Oaxacan cuisine. Mmmmmm!

Overall another succesful, inspiring day at VizThink. Great job everyone!