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hoRHIZOntally : Learning Subjectives for #rhizo15

“Every work of art is the child of its age and, in many cases, the mother of our emotions. It follows that each period of culture produces an art of its own which can never be repeated.”

 ~ Wassily Kandinsky, Introduction to “Concerning the Spiritual in Art”

One of the few books that has moved around with me since my under graduate days is “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” (Gutenberg OR Amazon) by Wassily Kandinsky. When I first read it I was a fine art undergraduate living in Montreal surrounded by a great community of artists, many of whom remain my spiritual kin. It was a hugely influential text for me as I attempted to synthesize theorietical and practical courses in painting, writing, filmmaking, drawing, and the philosophy of art. More than any other art book, it has been a reference for me over the years, returning to random passages for inspiration when the need arises.

Since the first time I read it, the Kandinsky quote above has pushed me when I look at art: is it saying something that is not just ‘new’ but is it saying something ‘now’? Does it change the way I feel/perceive ANYthing? One of the fields that does this for me is data visualization. Several years ago I had the opportunity to see David McCandless present some of his data visualizations at a conference. Before going in to see him, I overheard some others at the conference who said he made infographics, so my expectations were very low, but he definitely delivered and the seed for my own explorations in dataviz began.

As an Instructional Designer, I feel that dataviz is hugely important in a lot of what I do. When a subject matter expert comes to me with a bunch of content that is predominantly, but not necessarily, text, I try to “re-format” as much of it as possible to make it easier to read and understand. Or, when doing presentations, I feel that it is essential nowadays to condense as much information in visuals as possible. If a picture once did speak a thousand words, dataviz amplifies that idea x-fold.

Since seeing David McCandless I have been lurking in a bunch of #dataviz communities and look at dozens of examples daily. I have dipped into the field and been happy to find Edward Tufte’s work as well. And a bunch of other stuff.

So. To summarize, my learning subjective(s) for #rhizo15 is to finally create a bunch of dataviz work and see where it takes me. In the first week it has already lead to variations using photo tweaking appsa song and a rhizo-trance video mashup, so thats pretty impressive. And definitely rhizomatic I think.

As we near the end of week one of rhizo15, I am very excited to be spreading out some and hope to start pushing things as well.

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What data visualizations do you think are good examples in the field? If you’ve had a look at some of my work, where do you think I should go next? Is there anything you’d like visualized that you think I would have fun with?

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Wassily Kandinsky ~ Squares with Concentric Circles, 1913

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  1. I have never met anyone who has read the Kandinsky before. I often (mis) quote his stuff about a line and a fish.

  2. Not sure exactly which piece you mean, but I could say most of the same things about another of his writings, Point and Line to Plane. I bought them both on the same day and return to them frequently. If the situation arises, mayhaps I will throw some of that into a future post as well.

  3. […] After years of lurking around various communities, I decided recently to share a lot more of my work and interests with others. As a major lurker in #rhizo14 last year, I decided in March that I was going to do something everyday during the #rhizo15 course, even if it was a series of slides with pretty clusters and nodes and such. Leading up to the course I did a lot of writing in my journal trying to sort out what kinds of things I may be able to contribute. In the first week of the course I even wrote a blog post centred loosely around Learning Subjectives with a hint of Wassily Kandinsky. […]

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