Tieto näkyväksi event notes

Today I was lucky enough to attend Tieto näkyväksi in Helsinki. The whole schedule contained first a few talks in Finnish and then moving on to more international speakers in English. Just writing up my notes per each talk. I’ll try to translate Finnish names of the talks into english inside (parentheses).

Paula Ahonen-Rainio: Geotagged data

Starting from the first, “Kun tiedolla on sijainti” (Geotagged data) by Paula Ahonen-Rainio: The talk was perhaps too basic for my expectations. However good discussion on whether maps should target simplicity or accept complexity of some sort. Quote: “In a good map there are two layers: the knowledge at first glance and the details.” There were no actual map applications or interesting (interactive) demos, just a few example maps.

Terike Haapoja: Environmential data and experiencing

Next up “Ympäristödata ja kokemuksellisuus” (Environmential data and experiencing) by Terike Haapoja: Terike is an artist, not a data analyst or engineer. She has implemented interesting projects like hiilipuu.fi and other physical setups. I wan’t too interested.

Kimmo Vehkalahti: Visualization of statistical differences

After the first pause was turn of Kimmo Vehkalahti with “Tilastollisen vaihtelun ilmentäminen” (Visualization of statistical differences). I didn’t get the exact credentials of Kimmo, but most likely he’s a professor at Aalto with Applied statistics or something along those lines. The talk included rather basic but still even more important examples of when to use logarithmic scales in graphs, and included a small “on the side” demo of a Finnish interactive statistics program Survo for which they are working on a OSS version called Survo Muste.

Ville Tietäväinen: Illustrations with a story

After Kimmo Vehkalahti there was Ville Tietäväinen with his “Kertova kuva” (Illustrations with a story). Ville is a graphic artist (or illustrator, not sure which is correct title here) doing artwork for magazines and books, and he let his great graphics do so much of the talking I didn’t write anything down. He did though discuss the artwork in contrast of the actual accompanied article, the possibilities for telling different sides of the story with both elements and the importance of delivering a message through the artwork. His talk most likely hit the more journalistic listeners the best.

Tuomas Siitonen: Did you get that?

Next up was Tuomas Siitonen with “Menikö perille?” (Did you get that?). Tuomas has an architectural background, and has set up a physical display visualizing everyones CO2 footprint by filling up a shopping cart with blocks representing every day usage of items, services etc. He had also taken part in writing a environmentialistic book about the Gulf of Bothnia. He talked mostly about allowing viewers (or visitors of physical setups) to create their own experiences when fully grasping the idea of presentation/visualization and showed some really interesting maps of the Gulf of Bothnia with overlays portraying for example fishing locations.

Helena Haapio and Stefania Passera: The quest for clarity in contracts

Again, next up were Helena Haapio and Stefania Passera talking with “The quest for clarity in contracts – this time in visual turn”. I have to admit having always wondered how come no one does anything to fix legalese documents. Apparently at least some people are trying. They had developed a number of ways to simplify the legalese with for example graphs displaying the length of contract with it’s possible renewal and cancellation possibilities. They had also done studies on how people (apparently both companies and private consumers) feel about readable/understandable contracts. The results were of course very encouraging, building up trust for example.

Rob Waller: Typographic visualisation to simplify complex information

After the lunch Rob Waller continued on almost the same subject as Passera & Haapio had left the stage: “Typographic visualisation to simplify complex information.” To my surprise the complex information was in fact horrible goverment letters, for example from social welfare office or police about a ticket. I’ve never felt that the letters from Finnish agencies have been too simple to understand but the letters in UK are apparently really horrible. Luckily Rob is there with his non-profit organization (Simplification Centre) to help iron these horrors out. When it came to discussion about “how to deliver fixed letters to consumers” (who in Robs case are goverment officials) he started talking about the familiar sounding book of Christopher Alexander, which in turn lead to Gang of four’s Design Patterns. From there I understood that he had figured that patterns work well in the letter world as well, which is rather interesting. He had a few pattern examples: “Headlines” from genre “newspaper”. Very interesting indeed, and the improved forms/letters he presented were also great to look at.

Yannick Assogba: Visualizing you and me

Yannick talked about how people are using his mycrocosm to collect information and visualize their own life. He had quite many example graphs and videos going on so I dind’t write up much. Very interesting thing was a project he has taken part in: manybills.us. It’s an automated US bill watching service, which tries to automatically understand what each bill is about and enlighten the great public about what their representatives are actually doing over there. For one bill it for example showed that a portion allowing carrying rifles in nature parks was added to the end just before accepting the bill. The original bill and the accepted topic was related to whole another subject, yet now it is also legal to carry rifles in parks, or something like that. Public information projects are always interesting, and we could sure need something like in Finland as well.

Moritz Stefaner: Adventures in data visualization

Moritz talked about his inspirations and actual process behind emoto. He is apparently inspirated by nature, the balance between chaos and simplicity. The detailed explanation of the process how they came up with emoto’s visualization was very, very interesting to listen. Apparently he and the team he worked with are in addition to very creative also highly proficient programmers. Other notes: Moritz has a podcast Data stories and also took part in rather bizarre visualization workshop Open data cooking. Very interesting all in all.

Farida Vis: What do data visualizations want?

Farida has a background in psychology or some other humanistic science and had a really unexpected approach (for me) to whole data visualization. She was very intrested in outliers in data, interested to find the “little data in big data” and further investigating the reasons behind that. She had a lot of covering of London riots, the tweets surrounding it (apparently made for Guardian magazine). Interesting point: how are tweeted photos distributed, why isn’t anyone else interested in those, photos played big part in riot reporting. Didn’t write down much as I was focused on her more humanistic point of view.

Jer Thorp: Near/Far

I never actually saw the topic of Jer’s talk up until now when I checked it from the schedule. Amazing talk. Apparently Jer thrives to understand un-understandably complex systems. He had great presentation with a lot of interactive demos and videos from for example cascade -project. He also talked about first party (consumer) data access in contrast to allowing only the second (for example phone manufacturer) or third (application developers, outsiders) parties to access your data, interesting points; he has a self-tracking website project where you can visualize your own movements, possibly release your data to be used in studies etc. (didn’t write down the name of the site, too bad). Also he’s very fond of Minority Reports user interface and has participated in a project trying to create one for NASA’s Kepler planet project data visualization (didn’t write this properly down either).

Well, thats it folks, over 1200+ words. Hopefully enough pointers.

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