Every ten days or so, I share a quick digest of what I've been working on and reading. Here's the latest. More in the series here.
Things have been busy lately, which is great but a little draining. The most notable bit of work I've completed recently was a Loud Numbers sonification of the popularity of immersive experiences over the last few years, for an event run by LiveUnion.
It was a fairly straightforward job - we grabbed data from Google Trends and mapped it to a low-pass filter, which cuts out the high frequencies of sound. The higher the interest in immersive experiences, the more high-frequency sound is allowed through, so it sounds like it's surfacing from underwater. It was all done in Logic Pro X using automation curves - no need for code on this one. Working with LiveUnion was great, too.
If you want to find out a bit more about what Loud Numbers does, go have a look at our studio website.
Moving to a new apartment is always a good excuse to rework how my workspace is set up, and this time has been no exception. I try to pay attention to how things are laid out, because it's a room that I spend a lot of time in.
Some of the questions I have been thinking about, in no particular order, includes:
- where's the light?
- what will people see in the background of my video call?
- where can my dog Laika sit so we can keep an eye on each other?
- where are the power and network sockets?
- what's in my eyeline while working?
- what will the room be like in daylight?
- what will the room be like in darkness?
- how much space should be dedicated to storage?
- how much space should be dedicated to work surfaces?
- what should I put on the walls?
- how can I balance up the many different things I do in here?
Right now, I've got the room divided approximately in two, with half devoted to music and half to information design, but having the workspaces next to each other so I can easily switch. The music side is much more about work surfaces than storage, while the information design side is more storage-oriented. I haven't got much onto the walls yet, but Laika has a little chair she can doze in next to me, juuuust out of webcam shot.
One of the things I'm proudest of is a footswitch attached to a power distributor that I use to turn on my music equipment. I bought this one, which has some sockets that are always on and some that are activated with the footswitch. It's a huge success - one tap of the foot and everything is on and ready to go. Another tap of the foot and everything is shut down. Feels like magic.
There are a couple of additions that I'm thinking about, which might require a little investment. Something new for the walls. A comfortable place to sit that isn't an office chair. And a larger keyboard that I can use as both a sound source and a MIDI controller. I'm in no rush on those, though, so I'm gonna keep an eye out on the second-hand market locally, and when it happens, it happens.
There's a lovely writeup in the Guardian of how Japanese haiku poets are coping with the disruption of the seasons caused by humankind's carbon emissions.
The climate crisis is wreaking havoc on the Saijiki – the “year-time almanac” of thousands of seasonal words that are widely acknowledged as acceptable for inclusion in haiku. A kigo could refer to a particular plant or animal, the weather, seasonal festivals, the sky and the heavens. When read at a corresponding time of the year, it is supposed to stir emotions in the reader.
“The seasons are important to haiku because they focus on one particular element,” adds McMurray, a professor of intercultural studies at the International University of Kagoshima, where he lectures on international haiku. “But typhoons arrive in the summer now, and we’re getting mosquitoes in the autumn, even in northern Japan.
“The risk is that we will lose the central role of the four seasons in composing haiku, and the Saijiki will essentially become a historical document. The Saijiki is very specific in the way it presents the words. But they no longer reflect reality.”
Read the whole thing here.
Otherwise, what else have I been working on? I've been slowly progressing a sonification of Canada's wildfire season this year, which will be a collaboration with the Data is Plural podcast. I've been helping a Swedish climate startup to communicate their vision to cities, which has been a big editorial project. I've been finishing off my work on a new version of the American Opportunity Index, which is due to launch in the coming weeks. I've been moving my sonification awards project forward, working with Jordan Wirfs-Brock and some other volunteers to develop some criteria for judging the effectiveness of communication-oriented sonifications. I've been helping climate charity Possible with some dataviz related to a new report about reducing flying. I've been running a sticker competition with the Lines community. And I've been continuing to support the members of the Elevate Dataviz Learning Community in their work, recording a video the other day about personal projects. Oh, and I've been welcoming friends who've been visiting Malmö. No wonder things have felt busy.
I'm going to try to keep December quite quiet, so that there's time to get a few of my personal projects actually finished before the end of the year, but I'm also starting to think about booking up work for next year. So drop me a line if you need some information design, and we can chat.
Finally, I'll leave you with my favourite listening lately - Infraordinary FM from Seb Emina and Daniel John Jones is a radio station that combines generative music with low-key announcements of unimportant things happening across the globe. I feel like I’m suspended floating somewhere in low-Earth orbit, plugged into data feeds beamed from all around the world. Such a chill vibe.
That's all for today. See you again at the end of the month.