Ben Fry visited our design studio class again, this time to give a presentation instead of critiquing our work.

He talked about the importance of being able to visualize complex data in order to gain a better understanding of what we’re talking about, for instance, when we say the human genome consists of approximately 35,000 genes.

Ben said mapping such complex data can help us bridge the gap between what we understand, and what we think we understand. Another interesting, but obvious, statement was that there is no trend toward less information. So true.

As one of the creators of processing, he claimed that the tools (Illustrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, etc.) don’t tell us how to deal with this complex information. He it seems he believes the tools are constraints. But it’s hard to imagine people not using tools, and instead coding them themselves.

I asked how much of what he does is simply displaying the information versus making it look cool. While his goal is not about making these that look cool, he said, making something that people want to look at certainly helps in making the information accessible.

Some of the more interesting pieces of work that he showed has were mapping of old Atari and Nintendo game code. This he did for fun.

But he did state the importance of learning about data for real projects through experimentation or play. While possibly not practical or useful, it teaches you something about the data they perhaps will influence the final piece.

Overall, the project he presented were interesting enough for me to again consider whether to take a course with him next semester. It also made my curious again about processing, which I haven’t touched since I downloaded it for my data visualization project.

I didn’t use it. But I’m wondering if, as an experiment, I should.