Mediated Cityscapes 03: DIY Cartography [Theory]

A month ago in Minneapolis, nestled amidst the brilliant programming of the inaugural Eyeo Festival, Mark Hansen organized a panel on data visualization and social justice that brought veteran designers Laura Kurgan, Michael Migurski and Lisa Strausfeld together to discuss visual communication, representation and agency. The conversation that ensued was extremely provocative and challenged many of the basic assumptions underlying data visualization's capacity as a polemical or exploratory medium. This critical engagement was perhaps best summarized by Kurgan when she reminded her fellow panelists and the audience that it is dangerous to confuse data with knowledge. Later, Migurski described his optimism in thinking about "people as pixels" within these representational systems whereby designers have the opportunity to highlight spatial inconsistencies and (ideally) engender engagement and civic action. Migurski summarized this question of responsibility in a blog post in advance of the session as "do we reveal new things about society by viewing data, or do we bend society into new forms by choosing data that can be viewed?" This introspection was timely, not only within the milieu of a creative coding summit, but as a reminder of the far-reaching implications of the visual representation of urban space.(1)

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