The Spatial Information Design Lab is now the Center for Spatial Research at Columbia University. Visit our new site at c4sr.columbia.edu to find out about current projects and upcoming events. This site is an archive of work completed up to 2014.
Posted on February 27, 2014 by Juan Francisco Saldarriaga

On February 27th, Juan Francisco Saldarriaga gave the lecture The Uncertainties of Data at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste. This lecture was part of the City as Resource Lecture Series.

Visit the links below to find out more:

http://www.zhdk.ch/?pid=61281 & https://vimeo.com/90226947

Posted on February 10, 2014 by Spatial Information Design Lab

Since technology is responsible for growth in the world’s collective knowledge, it also shares the responsibility of categorizing that knowledge into easily digestible bites. Because what’s the use of this glut if it can’t easily be understood? And in order for data to have the largest possible impact, doesn’t it make sense for it to be understandable by researchers and blog-readers alike?

This conflict is one of the main issues breathing life into the Advanced Data Visualization Project (ADVP), a data analyzation project now in its second year at Columbia University. Birthed from a collaboration between international newswire Thomson Reuters and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), the ADVP is looking to make intricate systems--like neurons, international port logistics and library catalogues--both easily readable and stunningly beautiful.

Visit the link below to find out more:

http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/blog/turning-cryptic-data-into-beautiful-digital-mosaics

Posted on October 24, 2013 by Laura Kurgan
Posted on October 23, 2013 by Spatial Information Design Lab

Information graphics have been given a bad name by USA Today. Many people think of them as ways of tarting up the trend of the day into a bit of eye candy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our ability to understand cause and effect in the world depends on grasping complicated relationships among variables—how people, money, actions, power, things, and qualities are distributed in space, how they vary in time, and how they affect one another. The human brain did not evolve to do such complex calculations. But we are primates, with almost a third of our brain devoted to vision and visual cognition. Translating complicated relationships into a visual format is the best way we have of co-opting our primate neural circuitry to meet the demands of understanding our world. And it is a challenge where the creativity of artists, graphic designers, and other visual thinkers is essential. We have made do with standard graphical formats—pie charts, line graphs, organizational charts, and so on—for more than a century. We need ways to figure out how to use the resources of the page or screen—shape, contour, color, shading, motion, texture, depth­—not just to channel data into brains, but to reveal subtle relationships as visual patterns.

Visit the link below to find out more:

http://designandviolence.moma.org/million-dollar-blocks-by-the-spatial-information-design-lab/

Posted on August 24, 2013 by Laura Kurgan

Laura Kurgan, Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology and Politics, Zone Books, New York, 2013, 232 pages, 175 colour illus., $ 36.95, £ 25.95 hardback, ISBN 978-1-935408-28-4  (http://www.zonebooks.org/titles/KURG_CLO.html)

Laura Kurgan’s Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology and Politics is an insightful and innovative book that defies straightforward classification, ‘poised’ as it is “at the intersection of art, architecture, activism and geography” (page 17). Its subject matter—satellite images, satellite mapping and remote-sensing images—is by now an established concern of critical geographical scholarship in particular (see, amongst others, Cosgrove 2001; Crampton 2008; Crampton 2010; della Dora 2012; Dodge and Perkins 2009). Readers familiar with that scholarship will doubtlessly recognise many of the issues and debates broached by Close Up at a Distance: over the military origins of satellite technologies, images and mapping and the extent to which this still imposes secrecy and restrictions on their availability; on the promise and perils of ‘participatory’ cartography and the ‘democratic’ potentialities this may or may not offer; and finally, whether and how the increasingly ubiquitous use of satellite images and mapping might “transform … our ways of seeing and experiencing space” (page 14). The distinctive feature of Kurgan’s work in addressing these issues, though, is that it rejects the proposition that scholars can or should simply evaluate and respond to these at a ‘critical distance’: “[W]e do not stand at a distance from these technologies, but are addressed by and embedded within them”, Kurgan argues. Hence, “Only through a certain intimacy with these technologies—an encounter with their opacities, their assumptions, their intended aims—can we begin to assess their full ethical and political stakes” (page 14).

Posted on August 24, 2013 by Laura Kurgan
Posted on August 23, 2013 by Laura Kurgan

How a Map Is Like an Op-Ed

Thanks to the open data movement, anyone can be a cartographer. Professor Laura Kurgan on geography as a storytelling tool.

http://www.citylab.com/tech/2013/04/how-map-op-ed/5143/

Posted on August 23, 2013 by Laura Kurgan

APR/MAY 2013

Ways of Seeing

A new book examines how mapping technologies shape our view of the world

TREVOR PAGLEN

On December 24, 1968, Apollo 8 emerged from its fourth lunar cycle on the first manned mission to another celestial body. “Oh, my God,” cried astronaut Frank Borman as the spacecraft emerged from the moon’s dark side. “Look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up! Wow, is that pretty.” Crew member William Anders grabbed a modified Hasselblad camera and shot what has become an iconic photograph. In countless reproductions, Earthrise depicts our planet in the distance, a blue-and-white spot rising above a cratered and ashen lunar landscape, set against the blackness of space.

Laura Kurgan’s Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics opens on a reproduction of Earthrise and of another iconic image of Earth, the Blue Marblephotograph, shot four years later from Apollo 17. These two pictures are some of the most widely reproduced in history. In the popular imagination, they’ve become synonymous with the environmental movement, underlining the fact that, in the grand scheme of things, we live on a small, isolated, and fragile planet. But the pair of images are also emblematic of something else: the dawn of what historian Benjamin Lazier calls the “Earthrise Era.” We are now deep within this revolutionary moment—pictures and dynamic maps generated from space-based platforms are a part of our everyday lives. Since mapping technologies first began trickling into consumer products such as GPS navigation systems and smartphones, the view from above has become so ubiquitous that we seldom reflect on it. “We do not stand at a distance from these technologies,” Kurgan writes, “but are addressed by and embedded within them.”

http://www.bookforum.com/inprint/020_01/11237

Posted on June 1, 2013 by Laura Kurgan

Multiple Dimensions – Laura Kurgan and Jen Lowe of the Spatial Information Design Lab at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation [Columbia University] discuss interdisciplinary projects in progress. Hear about our collaborations, see results, and their critical approach to data and its visual translations.

See the video here:

Eyeo 2013 - Laura Kurgan & Jen Lowe from Eyeo Festival // INST-INT on Vimeo.

 

 

Posted on October 10, 2012 by Spatial Information Design Lab

Local governments have more than one way of enforcing law and order and providing for public safety. Incarcerating individuals convicted of crimes is of course the most familiar form of criminal justice. But alternatives do exist. One of the largest alternative-to-incarceration programs in the country is New York City’s Department of Probation (DOP), which provides services and investigations for more than 30,000 adults and 15,000 juveniles per year, and supervises approximately 24,000 adults and 2,000 juveniles on any given day. Until recently, this large population of New Yorkers — who might be turnstile jumpers, first-time offenders, or otherwise considered to be good candidates for non-incarcerated supervision — faced long commutes to DOP waiting rooms in central courthouses, where they would sit and wait, often for hours, in uninviting spaces. In many cases, the system was doing more harm than good.

Visit the link below to find out more:

http://urbanomnibus.net/2012/10/from-waiting-rooms-to-resource-hubs-designing-change-at-the-department-of-probation/