Big Data Part 2: The Guru’s of Big Data

In my last post I emphasized that the stats guys are the new high priests in a culture of Big Data. The best source I have found on this topic so far is the November 2011 edition of Popular Science.

“as anyone who has ever stared an an overstuffed tax table knows, too much information is no less confusing than too little. Carefully designed information graphics can help. They transform raw numbers into a story that can be understood at a glance. And the best among them reveal elements of our world that we would never have seen otherwise.”

Let me introduce you to a few of the incredible ways Big Data is being pictured in graphic form. As a Bible scholar, one of my favorites portrays all of the cross references in the Bible in an arc chart. “A bar graph at the bottom depicts the text; the length of each bar represents the number of verses in a chapter, and alternating shades represent different books. Arcs connect the references and each one is color-coded by distance–green for farther and blue for closer. Like many good books, references to the beginning tend to pick up toward the end.”

Two of the gurus who make data come to life for the Average Joe are Hans Rosling and Aaron Koblin. A profile of both can be found on TED’s web page, click on their names to find out more about them. Here’s some highlights from their works:

In the video shown below, Hans Rosling does a fine job of mixing the digital with traditional video to make difficult statistics make sense. Its hard to explain, you will have to check it out!

Aaron Koblin is like a data artist, most famous for The Johnny Cash Project. This project is a music video of Cash’s song “Ain’t No Grave”, which asks participants to submit drawings of a single portrait of Cash. All participants input is compiled to produce the most intricate music video ever. Again, its difficult to explain unless you watch it for yourself.

For the Johnny Cash Project alone, Koblin would be worth recognizing, but he is brilliant for other artful presentations as well. Combining Google Earth’s data with Arcade Fire’s “We Used to Wait” produces a mind-blowing music video personalized for the viewer’s address.

On a different note, below is a picture of Koblin’s graphcial presentation of flight patterns in the US.

My next post will look at some of the ways that the average person can use Big Data for semi-practical purposes.

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