6: Information is Beautiful and Complex

This is partially a continuation of the post entitled “Complex, or Complicated?”, in that I’ll be talking about the same two TED videos I mentioned in that post, but it is also a completely separate post in that my purpose is different. That post had to do with words, this post has to do with questions and ideas.

How do the two videos – Eric Berlow’s and David McCandless’ TED talks – relate to me as a student?

Eric Berlow’s talk on complexity and complication is actually rather apparent, at least to me. When you’re faced with a problem or homework, especially science and/or math work, it looks incredibly complicated and frustrating. What are you supposed to do with all those numbers? Yikes!! But even though it looks complicated, that’s not necessarily so. It is definitely and always, however, quite complex. My mom has been trying for years to get me to look at a math problem and find the simple elements and not be scared, and Eric Berlow’s talk restated that idea. If you look for simple connections between simple objects, the most complex concept becomes easy to understand.

With David McCandless’ presentation on the beauty of data and data visualization, it’s a bit harder to make a connection. The beauty aspect is easier: beauty is everywhere, and personally I’ve found it’s quite easy and enjoyable to find beauty in everything. (Except the tops of really disgusting outdoor trashcans. And mold. Those, not so beautiful.) But data and data visualization is, at least for me, a bit harder to relate to. If you’re an information systems major, it would be rather obvious, as you would be dealing with data all the time. If you’re an art major, especially if you’re going into graphic design, it’s also quite apparent, as his job is all about creating graphics and art. But what if you’re going into military history, or neurobiology, or music like I am? Well there’s the obvious point of “you can make a graphic about data about all of those topics”, but there are also deeper connections. (Being a musician, it’s easiest for me to make references to music, so pardon as I make a bunch of music metaphors.) Albums need cover art, and that’s beauty. Lyrics to songs, titles of pieces, the little information booklet you find in CDs, those are all data, and lyrics and titles especially should contain some form of beauty. But I think what David McCandless focussed a lot on was the interconnectedness of the data in his visualizations, and music is about nothing if not connections. And broadening my interpretation to college students in general, classes often ask you to make connections to things you’ve learned before, both in that class and in other classes you’ve taken. English classes especially (or at least mine) want you to relate all your current assignments to assignments you’ve done in the past, things you’ve talked about in the past (tapestries!), and ideas you’ve had in the past. Life is all about connections and finding them, and I think that is mainly what David McCandless brings to light.

I’m sure there are many other connections one could find between being a student and these two TED talks, and this is merely the surface. I could probably and would love to go into more depth about the connections and complexities of being a student and being a human on Earth in the 21st century, but I’m afraid that these are all the bubbles that have been programmed into my graphic. I do hope that this provoked thoughts in your minds, though, and I would very highly recommend visiting ted.com and searching for these videos. They may well be the most interesting 21 minutes of your month (I hesitate to say year or life, but it could well be). And as always, read on.

Complex, or Complicated?

Eric Berlow: Simplifying Complexity.

TED talks!

What words do we find cool?

Baguette!! (I love baguettes)

A picture of a lake! Water’s pretty. ^_^

Nature can be tied in to anything.

Prediction and black boxes…

Embrace complexity.

Node… (always sounds better in a funny voice.)

Simplicity lies on the other side of complexity.

David McCandless: Data Visualization

Patterns and beauty.

Design information to tell a story.

Data visualization can look cool!!

Beauty out of frustration. XD

Colors represent motivation.

Doosh. Best sound effect ever.

Data visualization creates a landscape.

Landscape of the world’s fears.

Find hidden patterns.


Data is the new oil?

Data is the new soil. (then proceeds to a brilliant metaphor of information as soil. <3)

Trawled through Facebook statuses for the phrases “break up” and “broken up”… (Depressing work, much?)

Sensitive to ideas.

Experience instills a dormant design literacy.

The language of the eye and the language of the mind.

Gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble. XDXD

We need figures connected to other data.

Let the data set change your mind set.

Balloon race!![diagram]

Efficacy. <3

The data is alive…

Society&Culture and Beliefs.

Recognizing things in yourself is really really uncomfortable.

You’re capable of holding conflicting beliefs joyously.

Provide elegant solutions.

Information is too interesting.

And that is beautiful. <3