While he was still posting earlier in the summer, JA posted Jonathan Harris' talk from the TED website about his very cool data mining and visualization projects, notably We Feel Fine and Universe. As with most of the TED lectures, I recommend you watch Harris' talk, as it speaks for itself. If you need a little context before spending twenty minutes listening to the lecture, well, OK. We Feel Fine and Universe are both projects that collect data from the Inetrnet in near real-time (blogs containing the words "I feel fine" in one case, news articles in another), analyze the data for both statistical and semantic information, and then present them in cool, artful, if a bit high-concept, interfaces that allow you to immerse yourself in the information, and explore in a number of ways. In each case, I find the projects compelling for similar reasons:
- For the artful visualizations, which function at the level of candy -- to explore and play with;
- For the networks of meaning that are made transparent and accessible through the data mining and various applications that enable you to interact with the data;
- For the basic, underlying notion that we can learn something about the world and make connections by understanding the patterns and connections implicit in the mass of individual, distinct pieces of information that the Internet allows people to contribute and make findable;
My only criticism of the projects (which I'm sure the designers aren't terribly concerned with), is if they are useful? Clearly, the information surfaced from the data analysis has value, in creating relationships between people, in highlighting connections between ideas and events. Can these projects, or some similar application, make this information relevant?