19 posts categorized "Data and Maps"

August 31, 2012

What computers can't do: hexagonal thinking

I'm working on an advisory project at the moment where the team in charge is largely remote: we're all spread around the world and the people organising things spend too much time in front of Word, PowerPoint and Outlook. The result? Lots of text gets sent back and forth and that text is festooned with bullet points, numbers and linear thinking.

I first came across the antithesis to this from the creator of "the learning organisation" concept Arie de Geus' The Living Company: hexagonal thinking. Hexagonal thinking involves writing down key components of knowledge, observation and understanding on hexagons, not in lists, and then placing them in patterns that show the connections between ideas, and the connections between clusters of those ideas and other clusters. It is complexity made simple.

De Geus had found that when he and executives were trying to help insurance people better understand their complex products, the expensive computer simulations they had developed were not doing the job: staff were too busy trying to "win" the simulation that the more significant, and complex, information about the products was lost. With the introduction of hexagonal thinking those complex connections were made swiftly and deeply.

In the classroom does this work? Of course! And it was my good friend Chris Harte who showed me how it could be done with something as banal, and complex, as French grammar:

6a010535c2fe6b970c0147e4222242970b-800wi

Chris has since gone slightly crazy about hexagons, and presented on it in his new home of Melbourne, Australia, at his local TeachMeet:

Chartetmmelb

I only wish bureaucrats also thought in hexagons...

December 02, 2011

Initiativitis, 21st Centuryness and other ills of learning

It's an oldie that I've only just unearthed. Nearly two years ago I spoke to 500 'creative agents', people from the creative industries working in schools, at their national conference in Birmingham on how to manage creativity in education.

And I just discovered the video on Vimeo.

This talk was one of the first 'biggies' that I gave after "coming back" to education after my time at Channel 4. One of the reasons I quite like it is that it led to one of the projects of which I am most proud: TEDxKids @ Sunderland.

It covers a few things:

  • on feeling uncomfortable with innovation, and remembering you're not alone;
  • the importance of continuing professional development over annual reviews and five year forward planning;
  • the power of social media to overcome the shortcomings of the press and the telephone (even more relevant in these days of uncovering the poor quality of journalism in corners of this country), and the responsibility of schools and parents to relearn how to communicate.
  • communicating better with parents;
  • listening better to share better;
  • creative copying;
  • the Seven Spaces;
  • harnessing data;
  • gamifying learning and having permission to dream a little.

November 29, 2011

[#smartcityexpo] Carlo Ratti on the Living City: Harnessing Data To Reveal Stories

20 years ago if you wanted to win a Formula 1 Grand Prix race, you got yourself a good car and a good driver. Today, you need a team of scores of computer scientists, engineers and mathematicians, analysing your car's computer eveyr millisecond of every lap: without this data harvesting and analysis you will not win a race.

Today's cities, says, Ratti are heading the same way, and many are getting there already. Having placed billions of data connections in our cities over the past few years, cities are beginning to talk back to us, as the artefacts in MoMa's Talk To Me Exhibition show. And it's important that we harness this. Cities currently take up:

  • 2% world surface
  • 50% world population
  • 75% of energy communication
  • 80% of CO2 emissions

Managing cities based on cell phone use

During the World Cup final Ratti's team at MIT's Senseable City Lab saw how cell phone use matched the to and fro of people around the match itself and in cafés and homes around a city. How could this data be used to provide better information to public transport, buses and taxis?

How could rainfall be better predicted, but data on that be provided to taxis on the ground to better ship people around the city - the very question solved by Ratti's team in Singapore:

Tracking Waste

We spend so much energy in our cities and corporations sourcing the goods that make our products, but we know very little about where the waste from our products ends up. Here, harnessing data from pervasive geo-location-aware tags on 3000 products, Ratti's team were able to see the extent to which our waste travels around the world and back. Using this data, could our city fathers and corporations design better waste solutions, not just better sourcing solutions?

 

Planning a great response to great (and pervasive) data

Analysing data reveals stories - in a telecoms example in the United Kingdom Ratti's team looked at the two connections made with every network communication. This helped redraw the map of Great Britain, with Scotland the first, most clearly marked out communicative community, but with countries like Wales split in two, north and south, and the epic-centre of the echo chamber that is London-London communication clearly marked out:

UK by Telecom Use

This analysis of data can therefore suggest to us several things, and reveal the communities around which we might want to build specific services, which often don't match the "official" boundaries marked out by politicians. Something for Scotland will, naturally, be very different for something based around the communication habits of someone in London or Wales. More on the analysis process can be seen in this video and the research paper:

 

The Copenhagen Wheel - helping individuals to help the community

And how can data be harnessed on a level much more "on the ground", by citizens? The Copenhagen Wheel was a creation from the MIT Senseable City Lab, which makes life easier for the cyclist but uses their efforts to provide information about the city that can be used to help everyone:

It transforms ordinary bicycles quickly into hybrid e-bikes that also function as mobile sensing units. The Copenhagen Wheel allows you to capture the energy dissipated while cycling and braking and save it for when you need a bit of a boost. It also maps pollution levels, traffic congestion, and road conditions in real-time.

 

Conclusions (and questions that remain!)

  • How can we make data more useful in other contexts than it currently is?
  • What is there we can do to make the collection of data from one person actually helpful to them, while beneficial to the wider community, not just the political or adminstrative élites?
  • What innovations in data collection for the common good are there to be found in education? But also in parenting, transport, food and drink, energy consumption and creation?

This talk was the opening keynote at Smart City Expo in Barcelona, Spain, where I'm giving a talk on how we can harness design thinking to better involve our communities, and our children, in building better cities.

November 08, 2011

Fact: ICT is *not* new (and learning has always been more important than teaching)

ICT
Well, only partially true. While researching out a seminar on digital stories I thought I'd plug into Google's ngram viewer, looking at how vocabulary has evolved in the millions of books digitised by Google since the 1800s.

My first search was on ICT. Surprisingly, ICT is not a new phrase, and the C in ICT may not have been added as late as the 1990s but as far back as 1800. My question: "what did ICT mean back in 1800?"

Teaching learning on ngram

Another interesting search, suggested by Tom, was "teaching,learning". Isn't it fascinating to see how learning has always been more important to authors than teaching. You can even see the industrial revolution kicking in, where teaching streaks ahead. Finally, the progressive movements of the 60s bring learning back to the fore. I wonder what the next 20 years hold for the balance of learning and teaching.

November 03, 2011

LA class seeks augmented reality help: apply within

Augmentedrealitypicasso
Paula Cohen, from Los Angeles, has the kernel of an art project idea for her class. When she told me about it, it felt like an augmented reality twist might make it come true. I can see the concept, but lack the technology skills to see how to pull it off. I'm hoping someone reading this blog might be able to share their expertise and ideas on how to make a living graffiti project come alive. Here is Paula's original email, published with her permission:

I have this project I have been wanting to get off the ground with my students.   I was visiting SPARC this summer and it came up of how there is a current ban on murals in Los Angeles going back to some signage legislation that was intended for corporations.

A local drive entails passing a multitude of billboards, many digital, flashing distractive messages and sales.  That is when I got this idea to help young people reimagine their communities.

What if they could take a series of digital photos of their communities and through a program like photoshop and  deep conversation, they could transform their communities on screen into what they imagined.

For example: lawns could turn into food gardens, billboards could become PSA's and murals, each corner could have a youth center, etc.  (Ok, that's my imagination!)   Do you have any ideas?

Thank you, Paula

In my mind it's something with Layar that could work best, and I've shared my small selection of AR links with Paula in the hope there's some inspiration in there. But what would you do?

March 31, 2011

Data Reveals Stories: Part Six | Graphs

This is one of a six-part series on how to harness data to reveal stories. It represents notes and follow-on links. If you want to take part in an exciting workshop to get your hands on real life data sets, create your own visualisations and learn how to share them, you can join me in Boston at Building Learning Communities for my pre-conference workshop this summer, or ask for it as one of our masterclass sessions. Many of the examples cited are from the information visualiser's Bible, Information is Beautiful: buy the book (in the UK | in the USA) or visit the blog.

Use one chart for a new purpose
Example:
A Periodic Table of Visualisation Methods:

 Periodic table

Charts and time
Combine time, bar charts and graphical punch to show impact on complex stories.
Example:
The rising sea levels as they consume cities over time.

 Info-is-beautiful-sea-lev-001

Charts and image
Interesting charting effects can be gained by superimposing one chart on top of many, many photos through Microsoft's Deep Zoom Composer software (free).
Example:
Winston Churchill Deep Zoom

Colour swatches
Use the metaphor from pantone cards from the painters' shop, or military ribbon bands, to transfer new information.
Example: Military ribbons as a means to explore the debauchery of rock bands, Information is Beautiful book.

Scattergraphs 2.0
Don't just plot dots on a scattergraph. Plot graphics that make your point.
Example:
Caffeine versus Calories: Buzz vs Bulge

 Scattergraphs 2.0

Abstract geneology
Make a family tree to show the relative links between abstract concepts
Example:
A family tree of Britain's musical heritage (Information is Beautiful book)

March 29, 2011

Data Reveals Stories: Part Five | Maps

This is one of a six-part series on how to harness data to reveal stories. It represents notes and follow-on links. If you want to take part in an exciting workshop to get your hands on real life data sets, create your own visualisations and learn how to share them, you can join me in Boston at Building Learning Communities for my pre-conference workshop this summer, or ask for it as one of our masterclass sessions. Many of the examples cited are from the information visualiser's Bible, Information is Beautiful: buy the book (in the UK | in the USA) or visit the blog.

Map overlays
Countries are not all given equal status in the learning we do/did at school. Map overlays show this.
Examples:
Take several of the world's richest and most prominent countries and see how many you can fit into an outline of Africa:

Africa and the rest

Take four of the world's four richest economies and see how many you can fit inside the richest of all: the United States. (Information is Beautiful, pp.61, 142-3, 202)

Everyone thinks their own country is bigger than it really is. The Brits are as guilty as anyone else. Just listen to the oohs and ahs at these proportionate maps, courtesy of Sheffield-based Alisdair Rae:

UK in Africa

The BBC's How Big Really helps people understand the scale of issues around environmental disasters, the war on terror, disease and other global issues, but showing their extent atop the town or city where that person lives:

BBC Dimensions


Real maps, abstract stories
Take a map whose coloration or name markings tell a different story. The master of this was CS Lewis with the maps for the Chronicles of Narnia:

Narnia

Other examples:
Interactive Diabetes map of America
Flight pattern maps from The Endless City
A world of number ones - every country has to be great at something:

Number one for something

Proportionate Maps
A wonderful collection of maps from the University of Sheffield, UK, show the world map through different lenses to explore global issues. For example, population density as a map is amongst other concepts on WorldMapper:

Population Map



Mind maps / Organised Mind Maps
Favoured by the Guardian for its coverage of large, complex economy issues, these give a lot of information and show how it relates:

Guardian organised mind maps

Data Reveals Stories: Part Four | Images

This is one of a six-part series on how to harness data to reveal stories. It represents notes and follow-on links. If you want to take part in an exciting workshop to get your hands on real life data sets, create your own visualisations and learn how to share them, you can join me in Boston at Building Learning Communities for my pre-conference workshop this summer, or ask for it as one of our masterclass sessions. Many of the examples cited are from the information visualiser's Bible, Information is Beautiful: buy the book (in the UK | in the USA) or visit the blog.

Proportionate Images
More complex than a proportionate box, and even more so than a circle, see if students can make proportionate shapes to illustrate facts.
Examples:
Relative child poverty by nation
Relative costs of insuring parts of your body (Information is Beautiful, pp26, 60, 151)
Sensitivity of body by nerve endings:

Body by nerve endings

Relative sensitivity/desirability ratio of body parts (note: Not Particularly Safe for Certain Places of Work, but ideal as a starter for ten on personal, social and health discussions):

Proportionate Images

 

Data Reveals Stories: Part Three | Boxes

This is one of a six-part series on how to harness data to reveal stories. It represents notes and follow-on links. If you want to take part in an exciting workshop to get your hands on real life data sets, create your own visualisations and learn how to share them, you can join me in Boston at Building Learning Communities for my pre-conference workshop this summer, or ask for it as one of our masterclass sessions. Many of the examples cited are from the information visualiser's Bible, Information is Beautiful: buy the book (in the UK | in the USA) or visit the blog.

Boxes and Bar Charts
Potentially the most boring of all graphing, these can be really entertaining, shocking or thought-provoking. Or all three. Seek the greatest differences in data to make maximum impact. Seek to overlay boxes where relativity is important, or to lay them side to side where you want to compare like for like.
Example:
Clay Shirky's Cognitive Surplus explained in a picture
Debtris UK or Debtris USA versions:


Proportionate Circles
Lining up or superimposing circles of proportionately varying size helps emphasise the parts that make up any whole.
Examples:
How you spend your life and The shocking truth of conviction rates for rape in England and Wales (overlapping circles): Information is Beautiful pp.196-199.
The Sunday Times' News roundup of 2010:

Sunday Times news visualisation

Snake Oil? Are natural remedies all they're cracked up to be?

Snake Oil?


Gapminder
This is a free-to-download application that amasses some of the most authoritative (but dense) information in the world, and helps you spot trends amongst countries and within continents. Look at how Hans Rosling manipulates data to tell stories, in the BBC Clip below, for example, and then set students the challenge of finding their own 'shocking truths' within the available axis:

 

Data Reveals Stories: Part Two | Words

This is one of a six-part series on how to harness data to reveal stories. It represents notes and follow-on links. If you want to take part in an exciting workshop to get your hands on real life data sets, create your own visualisations and learn how to share them, you can join me in Boston at Building Learning Communities for my pre-conference workshop this summer, or ask for it as one of our masterclass sessions. Many of the examples cited are from the information visualiser's Bible, Information is Beautiful: buy the book (in the UK | in the USA) or visit the blog.

Mountains out of a molehill
Annotated graphing

Take a graph that would otherwise be a boring squiggle and present us with startling or surprising information as annotated text.

Examples:
Breakups, as monitored through Facebook Status Updates of "… just ended a relationship"
Mountains out of Molehills - column inches presented as a molehill graph.

Contrast image and (in words) story
Images can be used to make us smile, while words portray the deep, shocking truth.
Example:
Murderous dictators by facial hair (Information is Beautiful, p.172)

Calligram of the Great Firewall of China
Calligram

Write a text that takes the shape of the thing you are describing, adding proportionality or geography to add another level of meaning.
Example:
The Great Chinese Firewall as shown through websites that are blocked from coming into China and searches that are forbidden within it, in the form of a verbal map.

Proportionate Words
The data cliché of Wordle stops being a cliché when it makes a point.
Try Tagcrowd if you want to delimit the words and have a more accurate representation of the words that matter (i.e. by automatically getting rid of pronouns, articles etc).
Example:
Compare political bias in newspapers by TagCrowding the same story across tabloids, right and leftist papers.
Copy and paste speeches by politicians who speak about the same issues, and see what really interests them: Obama's vision for education:

Tagcrowd - Obama Education

versus that of English Education Secretary, Michael Gove:

Tagcrowd - Gove Education

 

About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

Ewan’s education keynotes & MasterClasses

Module Masterclass

Do you worry that your school or district could better harness its people, digital technology or physical space? Do you want some actionable inspiration, a mentor for a learning journey with your staff?

In a keynote or masterclass we can give them concrete ideas based on experience, enthusiasm fired by a vision of what can be, and backup before and after to make it happen for them.

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