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Reflections Week: Visualizing Spaces and Worlds

May 4, 2016
5:30-7:30pm CST
IIT Institute of Design, 6th FloorReflections
350 N LaSalle St
Chicago, IL 60654

With ever increasing access to data about our world, designers have an opportunity to understand our surroundings in new ways. Maps, globes, and navigation aids have existed for hundreds of years, but what we plot on a map — and how we go about doing the plotting — has been challenged, extended, and redefined in recent years with the introduction of computational data visualization tools and readily available public datasets.

Simultaneously, we have access to tools like Google Maps and social media outlets like Yelp! and FourSquare that assist us in adding information to our spatial context, both globally and locally. These tools promise to enhance our understanding, but still remain constrained in their format and output expressiveness.

The Spring 2016 Communication Design Workshop provides a place for students to explore visualizing spatial data through the use of self-selected datasets and coding. The class explores the potential of both 2- and 3-dimensional representation of these datasets, encountering issues along the way about the nature and biases of data and the purpose for visualization, in addition to the visualization tools themselves.

In addition to producing interactive coded visualizations, students explored advanced 3D modeling tools and 3D printing tangible data-based objects. Viewers are invited to examine and interpret the data in new ways, as students considered materiality and tactility as an additional vectors for information.

What kind of new affordances does interactivity and the third dimension provide for 21st century cartographers?

Areas of inquiry by students include:

- Human trafficking
- 3D printing file distribution

- Airline traveler sentiment
- Industrial water usage and reclamation 

- Divvy bicycle usage  
- Restaurant health inspection violations
- Crowd-sourced sentiment about restaurants and businesses
- Municipal infrastructure neglect and crime 

The students will present their work in a face-to-face, interactive environment, preceded by an opening introduction by the instructors.