semantics & visuals


musings on communication and culture

visualization of egyptian tweets

The visualization of the tweets &  retweets storm, around the time Mubabrak put in his resignation. The visual graph have been recreted using Gelpi Graph Streamin by Andre Panisson.

Gephi is an interactive visualization tool for networks and complex systems, dynamic and hierarchical graphs. This runs on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. Gephi is open-source and free. The beta of the software is free and available for download.

Emotions and the age of social media

Emotions and their  influence  in both user experience and now social media have long intrigued me.

Even though I am still grappling to fully understand how emotions are influencing relationships and engagements in social web, I have put some of my preliminary thoughts in a presentation below
View more presentations from Nazim Iqbal

Data Design and the age of Journalism 2.0

Journalist are realizing the need of design to make a sense of data, which is increasing become easily accessible and readily used to explain everything from Facebook friendship to similarities between PHD desertion.

Recently Sir Tim Berners-Lee, credited with inventing the World Wide Web, in a recent interview observed that data analysis is the future of journalism – “Journalists need to be data-savvy. It used to be that you would get stories by chatting to people in bars, and it still might be that you’ll do it that way some times.

But now it’s also going to be about poring over data and equipping yourself with the tools to analyse it and picking out what’s interesting. And keeping it in perspective, helping people out by really seeing where it all fits together, and what’s going on in the country.” And it rightly understood as most of the recent popular stories have been told through information design from wikileaks Iraq war logs, to BP Oil spill.

The video above titled ‘Journalism in the age of data’ provides views and insights on how new age journalists are coping with the rising information flood. The entire length of the video is also available in annotated version with bios, links and references. Because of it length of around 54 minutes, it is available in parts on YouTube.

Are we in the ‘Visual Age’?

I have been toying with this question for the last three years, from the time I had first asked it during one of my internal session on Typography in Sapient. And as the years have rolled by, I am witnessing significant rise is the use of visual language to communicate complex concepts, information and data.

The social media has opened up the world like never before and for the first time we are witnessing communication across geographical, language and cultural barrier at a mass level. People from every walk of like are reaching out and not only connecting with people across the globe but have opened up in the real sense sharing emotional, cultural and professional experiences. And perhaps it is this openness which is having a catalytic effect on the growth of the visual language; fueled by the need to communicate in a language that is as less and less dependent on the semantics language.

Whether it is a Facebook map of human relationship, the global warming’s impacts or as mundane information as how and where New York foodies spend their money, everywhere we see a preference to use visual models to communicate the information. It appears the World is on a fast track to develop the vocabulary and syntax of the visual language and simultaneously also making an effort to popularize it. Companies like Jees3 and idiagram seems to be at fore front of this change.

Over the last few months I have come across various resources which are either engines of this visual movement or example of the exemplary initiatives across the globe which this unorganized movement is inspiring.

Word Lens
Word Lens is the new and innovated iPhone app that user the iPhone camera to  scan writings and translate the text to your chosen language instantly and display it on the screen

Body Browser
Google has recently released a beta version of a WebGL application called Body Browser. As the name suggests, it allows you to you to view the human body in intricate detail right down to the muscular tissue, skeletal structure, nervous system, and even major organs.

With Visuwords you can look up words and get a visual map of their meanings and associations with other words and concepts

Visual Thesaurus

This is interactive tool that allows you to discover the connections between words and display the relationship cognitively.  With more than 145,000 words and 115,000 meanings it has a large dataset and have been around for than 5 years.

Page Rank Graph
The engine gives a visual map of your page rank; it produces a network graph showing the web of links that are contributing to that the site’s prominence in search results. Full code for PageRankGraph is available here

Many Eyes
This is an interesting and ongoing experiment by IBM Research and the IBM Cognos software group since 2007, whose stated goal is to enable data analysis by making it easy for lay people to create, edit, share and discuss information visualizations.

A World of Tweets
This is a real-time visualization of geolocated tweets around the world. The real time heat map shows the geographical intensity of tweets across the world as they are generated across the world

Facebook Sentiment’s Engine
In late 2009, Facebook project loosely referred as ‘Happiness Project’ that tracks the happiness of Facebook users based on the words used in their updates – words like “happy” or “awesome” or “sad” or “tragic.”

A visual programming language aimed to gather, process and visualize information. Impure makes it is possible to obtain information from very different sources; from user owned data to diverse feeds in internet, social media and images.

A non-profit tech company that develops free and open source software for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping. The software in diverse project have already been using multiple channels, including SMS, email, Twitter and the web to crowdsource for social change.

A global community for visual thinkers and communicators who like to go beyond words and believe that visuals can be an effective communication tool

Data Visualization – Course
This course will serve as a introduction to the fundamental concepts of data visualization, and provide a structured environment for experimentation with a variety of methods in both digital and physical media. The course is offered by School of Visual Art, NY, USA

Some resources of the visual maps and complex data visualization

Information is beautiful
Visual complexity

(this post is a follow-up of my earlier post on visual culture)

Mobile Web Everywhere

Mobile web is going through a phase of explosive growth and have grown 600% in the last years or so. The rising popularity of the smart phones and touch screen devices is primarily accelerating the growth of the mobile web.

Even though iPhone & US market remains the key driver, non-Apple touch screen devices and emerging markets like India, Indonesia, U.K., and Philippines are prime factors that are leading the future growth.

Even looking at India, there are nearly 500 million mobile users and just 50 million Internet users; mobile web is all set to take off.

Android & iPhone comes together

The quest to open up the mobile space continues…someone have been able to port Android 2.2 on iPhone 3G

social media and hospital industry

Six months ago I did round of hospitals as I was tending to my mother – and each visit to different hospital left me pondering about the role of technology, design & social media in hospitals. I could notice design & technology substantial contribution to make hospitals infrastructure aesthetic and efficient. But the thrust at large is to have designed space, and design is still not being used to resolve human, usability and data issues.

I feel social media should play a vital role in the way hospitals function. Both hospitals & social media share common ground – both have social cause as the driver and their popularity & growth is propelled by word-of-mouth. Hospitals can make a start with posting, blogging or tweeting about a visiting specialist, progress on complex cases and new discoveries.

Companies like GE & Philips are already making headways both by way of their technological products for the hospital industry as well as exploring ways to involve design in communicating complex & information-laden scenario more effectively.

Came across an interesting & interactive data visualization of the costs associated with chronic conditions.

data visualization - deeper understanding of healthcare costs

data visualization - deeper understanding of healthcare costs

the BarCamp movement

The BarCamp Delhi seems to have started a sort movement of unconferences. Close on the heels of BarCamp Delhi, there have been BarCamps in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai.

Then there was the BarCamp like event on Mobile 2.0 titled as MoMo Delhi. Organized at the same location Adobe office in Noida, the unconference unfolded quite like BarCamp Delhi chapter. But by the end of the day, I was left with the feeling that the standard of the presentation could have been better. Also I believe there should have been more focus on usability and user experience. More than the PCs, mobiles are very user centric gadgets. You will rarely come across two mobiles which are being used and are similar in their experiences they provide. For every mobile user, the mobile becomes an extension of the user personality and shades of the persoanlity is reflected in choice of ringtones, wall papers and color schemes. And therein lies the need for the mobiles to connect to the user on the experience level.

Of all the presentations koolpool and Webaroo caught my attention. Koolpool is a SMS based carpool service. I would be following their progress, as the concept looks exciting. Webaroo, though not semantically satisfying, still stood out because of the attempt to go beyond the web based search. And finally we had the pannel discussion towards the end. The interaction though lopsided was still inviograting as it is very rare to have such an exotic panel discussing emerging trends.

Now there is India’s biggest blog unconference scheduled for 9-10 September 2006 in Chennai. The BlogCamp website describe it as “a rich mixture of workshops, practical demos, presentations, interactive quizzes, lectures, iron-man challenges, debates, group discussions and games.”

Appears to be an interesting event. I am looking up my schedule.

art & design

I recently came across an explorative article by Peter Lawrence the chairman of Corporate Design Foundation on “Why design?”. He describes design “as a user-focused, prototype-based development process that simplifies complexity and achieves success through collaboration.”

Culturally the interplay of art and design has varied from society to society across the world. We in India have traditionally been more exposed to art that to design. This is a feeling which has found resonance in the myriad from of folk arts and in the marked absence of design in public places. Perhaps it is only in the last two decades that there has been a conscious move to use design in the public spaces and in urban areas.

This is a leaning which is also reflected in the web domain – a public space where design is an integral part of the medium. In the last few years of my association with the industry in India, I have realized that web designers in general tend to be more of artists than designers. Driven by their personal desire they tend to override the need to design for public pleasure.

Some anonymous designer once observed: “Design is based on sharing; it is a communal activity, its goals are communal – it seeks not the furtive satisfaction of the private individual but public pleasures of many individuals”

Even though the above observation was made quite a few years ago, this still holds true in the age of usability, user-centric design and user experience where user holds the centre stage of the design process.

Add on news: Photoshop labs has recently published the Web 2.0 Design Kit, with tips on how to create some of the more popular “Web 2.0″ design effects using Photoshop.

interactive work & awards

Looks like the interactive agencies in India are finally taking the creative leap. Recently some of the interactive work executed in India created quite some splutter in the international award festivals.

Earlier this month BC Web Wise won a Bronze at the Media Spikes 2006 for its creative execution of Ford Fusion website.

Now LIC website has won a webby Award. Design by Tribal DDB India the website has been declared People’s Voice Winner in this year’s Webby Award. This looks like an awesome achievement – given that Webby pits you against the best in the world.