Truth & Beauty with information visualizer Moritz Stefaner

The Eyeo Festival, a three-day conference in Minneapolis, MN brings together experts from the worlds of art, programming, experience design and data visualization. Included in this year’s speakers are familiar PopTech faces like Heather Knight, Zach Liebermann, Nicholas Felton, and Jer Thorp. Watch for updates from the Festival through Wednesday.

The title of Moritz Stefaner’s talk at the Eyeo Festival on Monday was “Truth & Beauty,” which are “the two maxims that should guide [an information visualizer’s] work.” This idea was a common thread throughout his talk, as he emphasized the importance of putting data first — and approaching information design as a process of discovery rather than invention.

The first project Stefaner walked through was Notabilia (see image above), a visualization of deletion conversations from Wikipedia. From the project’s website:

Any [Wikipedia] editor can nominate an article for deletion and, if this nomination is legitimate, a community discussion takes place where any fellow…editors have the opportunity to make their voices heard.


Prompted by an email from a colleague studying these deletion discussions, Stefaner began with a data set and found his way to a graphic representation that takes the form of a tree. Each branch of the tree is a conversation, broken into segments with the “delete” or “keep” vote determining which direction it “grows.”

Map your moves is a project produced for WNYC’s data visualization contest of the same name, which used data collected from over 1,700 WNYC listeners about their moves to and from New York City. Stefaner walked through the process of designing his entry — throwing out some of the more obvious visual models like a map or networked grid, which show “complexity, but not the order in that complexity.” The final visualization forgoes some geographic accuracy to bring the focus — New York City — into the foreground.

Stefaner noted that his work often takes organic forms, often unintentionally. He pointed out that organic forms have had many years of evolution to help solve problems, and when it comes to visually representing complex data they often “hit that sweet spot between order and chaos.”

Track the Eyeo Festival Twitter conversation this week using one of the tools Stefaner designed, Revisit — a display tool for tracking event-related tweets.

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