Visualizing cultural patterns

Editing history of the "evolution" Wikipedia-entry

"Evolution" on Wikipedia (History Flow)

I’m being very uningenious with the title of this entry, which I simply copied from Axel Bruns. In a quite interesting blogpost, he writes about the latest apparent trend in cultural studies: the analysis of cultural trends (all across the largely connected but also largely decentralised cultural – well – public spheres) through their visualization.

Computers are awesome in collecting data (data mining), and, what the idea is now, is to make them help making sense of all the data, through – you guessed it – visualizing them. Citing new media theorist Lev Manovich‘s talk:

How, then, is it possible to develop a theory for specific aspects of this global digital culture with its billions of cultural objects, and hundreds of millions of contributors? Our normal, manual methods of talking about different areas of culture are no longer adequate for this task.

Enter data visualisation. What was once confined to the financial pages of newspapers and scientific applications is now entering the realm of popular culture and everyday digital tools; visualisation is becoming increasingly common across a widening range of environments, including the digital arts. Public visualisations of their history and performance at their headquarters have become as prestigious as their logos for some companies, in fact.

OK, so, visualization – but what does this mean in practice? A couple of examples: CultureVis, History Flow (dealing with the history of Wikipedia articles, see the accompanying picture), Visual Complexity; or think of the ways in which Digg tries to visualize all the frantic activity that’s taking place there to keep everything manageable.

At the moment, the baby steps are being taken for this discipline to become accepted and to realize its full potential. It’s going to be interesting to watch (quite literally) how this will develop.

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One Response to Visualizing cultural patterns

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