What does information look like? And why does it matter? Data visualization has quickly become one of the dominant ways we see the world, ranging from personal calendars to planetary futures. It is widely seen as a key to innovation, but many of the basic forms we rely on predate modern theories of information — sometimes by centuries. In this talk, Ted Byfield discusses concrete examples across a range of fields — opinion polls, molecular biology, oceanic cartography, and the social science — to untangle conflicting ways of seeing data. He shows how conventional ‘best-practices’ approaches, far from advancing our understanding of complex issues, have often hindered our ability to recognize the implications of rising tides of data.
Ted Byfield is a New York–based independent writer and researcher. For thirty years he has worked internationally across the fields of art, activism, design, education, publishing, and new technologies — as an artist, director, advisor, organizer, and editor — with a wide range of civil society entities, foundations, and academic and public-interest entities. For a decade and a half he served on the faculty of the New School / Parsons School of Design, where his research focused on transparency issues in academic governance. More recently, he co-founded the Open Syllabus Project, a growing research network dedicated to transforming university-level syllabi into a large-scale resource for quantitative and qualitative analysis. He is currently writing a cultural history of images of information (forthcoming, Bloomsbury Academic, 2019).
Photo: Ted Byfield
Kunstakademiet i Trondheim
Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)