Category Archives: modes of publishing

Björk ‘Biophilia’ – Interactivity & intersections between science within the “public sphere”

Icelandic songstress & multimedia artist Björk is the queen of weird and wacky hybrid musical explorations. In 2011, Björk released her album Biophillia, a multimedia presentation encompassing music, apps, Internet, installations, and eccentric live shows (wonderfully weird and wacky!).

The idea behind this album was to draw together science, nature, music and technology in a new method of visualisation. Björk calls it a “meditation on the relationship between music, nature and technology”. Using new technologies like the iPad, the final album was complimented by ten separate iPad apps, all housed within one “mother” app. Each of the smaller apps relate to a different track from the album, and allow people to explore and interact with the song’s, their themes of science, nature and the cosmos, and even to visually reconfigure a new version of a track themselves. The viewers are directly inserted into the visualisation process, an innovative aspect of new media types which can create strong emotive links to a subject through playing on different cognitive senses.

Johnathon Crary would say this project is a new publishing device with ‘points of intersection where philosophical, scientific, and aesthetic discourses overlap with mechanical techniques, institutional requirements, and socioeconomic forces‘. Biophillia is an interesting example of visualization in the communication of science & nature within the “public sphere” using music as the medium and technology as a complimentary distributive device.

Interesting to also mention is that the live performances which accompany Biophillia, feature a range of specially-conceived and crafted instruments, among them a Tesla coil, a bespoke pipe organ that accepts digital information to create musical patterns. (WONDERFULLY WEIRD) Another example of how data is being used today.

Finally, and absolutely worth a mention, is that David Attenborough is one of the project collaborators, providing his well-known voice for the introduction app in the series of complimentary song apps. The documentary kingpin is the perfect narrator to start us off in the multimedia experience that is Biophillia, where science communication is given an innovative spin through music and user interactivity.

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Visualisation – making the invisible visible…

Visualisation is the aesthetics of publishing data. It involves communicating in a visual register through data based images.

Visualisation is not the same as photography. Photographed images give us a visual ‘recording’ of a space, time, place, or thing. Visualisation, however, goes a step further than simply recording what physically exists or that which can be seen. Visualisation makes the invisible visible, or gives the formless form.

Here is an example of visualised data making the invisible visible. Underskin, by Sam Loman, is an infographic that traces the routes of eight different systems within the body (digestive, respiratory, arterial, venous, urinary, etc.), and highlights the major connection points.

Information Aesthetics is a weblog that explores this field of information visualisation by collecting projects that represent data or information in original or intriguing ways. It reflects the popularity of visualisation as a form of publishing.

Certainly one type of visualistion becoming a fixed feature of the current online experience is the information graphic. Info graphics attract some criticism on their credibility and accuracy due to their over-saturation of the web and how easily one (any one) can make them using dedicated info graphic creation web programs. However, part of the info-graphics popularity is because readers are constantly looking for the quickest way to obtain information, and info graphics can often communicate complex topics quickly and efficiently whilst being aesthetically pleasing.

This infographic has a very detailed and large collection of information on the top earners for world football. It showcases crisp graphics with vibrant colors that pop from a neutral gray background; and makes information very easy to find.

Aesthetics is a key word in 21st century media and culture, as visual sources tap into a specific cognitive section of the brain that affects our senses. Image + information helps people to see or understand things that maybe they could not before and can lead to greater information retention, or motivation to understand.

A nifty example of visualisation with the aim of motivating people to understand their daily consumption of power is new project ‘.Blush’ (Dot Blush).

This project is about visually rewarding the tenants of a building for lowering their daily consumption of power.

“.Blush re-imagines a building equipped with an energy management system to be covered with spots or freckles. When the combined energy usage of the building falls below a certain level, the outside walls become flushed with pink. The spots on the façade change colour, reminiscent of a person blushing with pleasure. The more energy is reduced, the more the ‘skin’ of the building changes hue.”

By visualising the activity of energy consumption, something which is largely invisible to us all, this project changes understanding of the issue with the goal of motivating people to use less energy in a fun and aesthetic way.

Visualisation is useful for many aspects of modern publishing, but finally, if nothing else, visualised data be can a little bit of fun too! (Take the below, did you know that the record for the longest sword swallowed by a female is 69cm! more fun facts below).

Human Storage - Facts and Figures info graphic

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