What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word data? Well, almost every-one would say things like, “figures, numbers, etc.” and that is certainly right. Recording data is a very crucial task as the data is analysed to help one come to conclusions regarding certain facts. Dietmar Offenhuber, an associate professor at the Northeastern University, has realised how dealing with data can be boring. Thus, he is working on to devise some visually appealing data recording methods.
To Offenhuber, data is not restricted to figures or charts but can be related to physical phenomena to make it interesting. For instance, instead of using percentage and statistics, he would rather use tree rings and microplastics. Offenhuber was invited to Stuttgart, Germany to design a visualisation of air pollution. He created an installation called Staubmarke for the Drehmoment festival. Offenhuber’s strong imagination power drove him to give birth to such a great installation.
“For me, the main idea is to connect digital data with what you see with your sensory perception. Data is seen as something immaterial and abstract but this is not true. I want to bring it back to the location, back into the physical realm, into the physical context where they come from,” said Offenhuber, who teaches in the Department of Art + Design and the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs.
He has a strong belief that using this technique of presenting data to the common people, he will be able to draw their attention towards the environmental causes. He used Reverse Graffiti to create his installation. Currently, at Northeastern, the information design and visualisation graduate program are under the control of Offenhuber. He is working on the relationship between cities, technologies, and governance.
“My work mostly deals with urban data in social contexts, how different groups collect data and how that informs discourse and what role it plays in urban conflicts,” he said.
Offenhuber is aiming to publish a book which would help activists and scientists to visualise data through physical traces, including synthetic biology and amateur forensics. Hopefully, he will be able to spread his wisdom of data visualisation around the world and we’ll soon say goodbye to boring data.