Tag Archives: Project Fringe

Introduction to Complexity

I recently learned about a free online course in Complex Systems. The concepts covered in this course are very pertinent to visualizing and making sense of complex social data sets. The course was created and is hosted by the Santa Fe Institute.

You can find more information about this course at www.complexityexplorer.org

In this course you’ll learn about the tools used by scientists to understand complex systems. The topics you’ll learn about include dynamics, chaos, fractals, information theory, self-organization, agent-based modeling, and networks. You’ll also get a sense of how these topics fit together to help explain how complexity arises and evolves in nature, society, and technology. There are no prerequisites. You don’t need a science or math background to take this introductory course; it simply requires an interest in the field and the willingness to participate in a hands-on approach to the subject.

About the Instructor:

Melanie Mitchell is Professor of Computer Science at Portland State University,  and External Professor and Member of the Science Board at the Santa Fe Institute. She is the author or editor of five books and over 70 scholarly papers in the fields of artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and complex systems. Her most recent book, Complexity: A Guided Tour, published in 2009 by Oxford University Press, won the 2010 Phi Beta Kappa Science Book Award. It was also named by Amazon.com as one of the ten best science books of 2009, and was longlisted for the Royal Society’s 2010 book prize.

Course Team:

John Balwit (Teaching Assistant) is a Ph.D. student in the Systems Science program at Portland State University. He has a background in biology education and current research interests in theoretical biology, evolvability and natural selection. John is also interested in the use of agent based modeling and machine learning techniques to explore questions in the evolution of cooperation, the nature of social dilemmas and the patterns in human decision-making under extreme conditions. His current emphasis is on the use of computer models and computational exercises to effectively teach general audiences about the constellation of topics called Complexity Science.

John Driscoll (Teaching Assistant) has a background in architecture and is a Ph.D. student in Systems Science at Portland State University. He has worked with, and credits as mentors, Dean Bryant Vollendorf, Professor Emeritus, UNCC, and George Hascup, AAP, Cornell University. John is primarily interested in the rationalization of city planning and the emerging field of the science of cities, the goal being to apply theory and methods from complex systems science to the research, analysis and design of urban environments.
Erin Kenzie (Program Assistant) is a Ph.D. student in Systems Science at Portland State University. Her interests are in the fields of urban sustainability and behavioral and social science research methods.

Visualizing Social Data using Grasshopper and Google Earth

Below is a case study on using Grasshopper and several other plugins to generate visual representations of (social) data on a map. This method along with some additions to query and pull social data automatically and possibly the functionality of tying directly back into Google Earth to update the imagery will provide very useful to inform us of how social systems shift on local and macro levels.

From Metaball Diagrams with Google Earth and gHowl

“Google Earth presents an intuitive, dynamic platform for understanding spatial context. Combined with a parametric modeler likeGrasshopper, Google Earth presents complex datasets relative to geo-positioning in a way that is understandable. Facilitated by GH plugin gHowl, GH meshes and lines can be exported in Google Earth’s .kml format to be viewed by Google Earth or an enabled web browser.

Creating legible geometry for Google Earth is challenging, but one type of geometry I’ve experimented with is GH’s metaballs, which are about as old school as it gets for 3D curvature. Metaballs, as described by Yoda (Greg Lynn), are “defined as a single surface whose contours result from the intersection and assemblage of the multiple internal fields that define it.” (Lynn, Blobs, Journal of Philosophy and the Visual Arts 1995). This aggregation of internal fields can provide an intuitive understanding of various contextual forces relative to the spatial context of a site. While GH metaballs are only curves and not meshes / surfaces you can easily use a delaunay mesh to begin to create a mesh.

This tutorial will walk through the process of creating metaballs from Geo coordinates. I’m using a map I created with Elk that is based off of Open Street Maps info, if you’re interested in doing something similar look here.

Just click on the images below if you’d like to see them in more detail.

Start by positioning your Geo coordinates in GH space through gHowl’s Geo To XYZ module.”

Read More…

Facebook Mosaic 2.0: Painting with social data

Facebook Mosaic is a platform I developed to allow people to create art using their social data. My current work is highly focused around capturing and visualizing social data to provide utility to the masses. We upload an extensive amount of data to our social networking sites every day, however we, for the most part, can only view that data in the prescriptive context of our virtual social networks i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. My goal is to find ways to capture this data and visualize it in ways that can actually improve our day-to-day lives.

Although Facebook mosaic may not achieve that goal, the development process was crucial to my understanding of what it takes to query various social networks and make use of the information returned. It also gave me a chance to use my creative side to develop something fun and interactive. You can use Facebook Mosaic to generate images with you social data by visiting the website.

Here is a statement I wrote for the piece:

As an Electronic Artist I am always looking for ways to re-contextualize the role technology plays in our lives. Facebook Mosaic is a program that takes three profile pictures from a user’s Facebook news feed, and blends them together dynamically using one color channel from each photo.

Many of us use Facebook daily to communicate and share with friends and family, locally, and around the world. This forum has become a global “water cooler,” with a reach not bound by time or space. As a result, we are forced to think about our interactions in an entirely different way.

Although there is a distinct level of separation between our “real” selves and our profile, Facebook provides a melting pot for our ideas and identities to blend together like a large mosaic with many facets coming together to create a dynamic collaborative whole. My goal with this piece is to frame this abstract concept in a concise, playful fashion so as to depict our social interactions as works of art.

Project Fringe: Pioneering Social Landscapes – Prologue

This project is focused on developing new means of visualizing and interacting with social data parsed from multiple social platforms (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.). Over the next six months I will focus on integrating many pre-existing technologies both hardware (computers, projectors, wireless headsets and controllers) and software (Max/MSP, Grasshopper 3D, vDome, Google Earth) to develop an interactive, immersive software platform that will provide users with new insights about the data on both local and global scales.

My three-month goal is to complete a software platform that can gather, parse, and store data from several social platforms. The six-month goal is to complete the interface so a user can engage with the social data in a meaningful way. This will include visualizing the data on a research dome and interacting with it using a gesture based control system.

In preparing for this project, my preliminary research has led me to some exciting finds. Phototrails is a cutting edge project along the same vein as my own. They are doing some pretty cool stuff with aggregates of photos from Instagram to visualize cultural patterns around the world. Here are some examples from their Instagram Cities page.

San Francisco

San Francisco

New York

New York