Today there was a method conference steering group meeting in the morning that was productive but a bit overwhelming. It seems like quite a big thing, and it looks like I’ll be chairing a panel as well as presenting a full paper. This all feels a bit much, considering the abstract I sent through was quite rushed and fairly unfocused.

The ADRC seminar was for Amal do a final run through of her RF2. It was very interesting to see some work that’s very different to my own practice. The main feedback points are relevant to us all as practice based researchers: the method, the things you actually do to produce the research, needs to be made visible. I realise I have work to do in this regard with my own research.

I spent the rest of the day working on more LED lettering, completing the OFF part of the ON/OFF signs. I watched the following Caltech lectures while I was doing it:

Reduction/Revelation, Jer Thorp – May 23, 2013

This was interesting but not altogether revelatory. His take on data representation is a little imprecise, in that he foregrounds aesthetic considerations and is reluctant to account for them. “I consider myself an artist” is not a useful way of deflecting critique. Particularly with the projection on the outside of the building, there was a sense that the material being visualised is not actually data – it’s mediated content. Revealing relationships in mediated content is fine but it’s already pre-structured and formed along ideological lines. The best the representation can hope to do is reveal those ideological lines.

Visualizing Natural and Cultural Phenomena – Fernanda ViĆ©gas & Martin Wattenberg – May 23, 2013

Very interesting representations, and the complexity of the data really shines through. In the Wikipedia examples, it demonstrates how mass surveillance might be put to work: it’s visually obvious in their visualisation when a editing pattern deviates from the norm. Mass surveillance establishes the norm from which unusual behaviours can be inferred and spotted through visualisation techniques like this. Ethically tricky when you’re talking about behaviours that are about the control and management of information. In the wind example, beautiful though it is, there isn’t quite enough discussion of method. I’d love to see more of how those ‘back to the drawing board’ moments worked for them as producers.

It’s encouraging that both of the lectures talk up Processing and Java as environments for this. This gives me some hope that complex work might be doable without the step up to oF.