Ben Fry Thesis

Ben Fry Thesis-43
My purpose throughout is to interpret the material by juxtaposing and assembling the notations into a unified, coherent whole.In some cases I use a set of stacked, parallel lines to establish a time frame.

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On one hand, the evening news in the United States had for two years been talking about “terrorist networks” and loose associations of individuals on a global scale.

On the other, social networking by way of sites like My Space and Friendster (this is 2003) had grown past their early adopter phase and become more common, so the idea of having one or two degrees of separation to a network of people was understood much more broadly.

I first became familiar with Mark Lombardi’s work in April 2000 while in the midst of finishing my master’s thesis at the MIT Media Lab.

Lombardi began as a painter who was also deeply interested in research, with a natural bent toward reading and absorbing large amounts of information.

In his artist statement for a show in the late ‘90s, Mark described his work as follows: In 1994 I began a series of drawings I refer to as “narrative structures.” Most were executed in graphite or pen and ink on paper. I call them “narrative structures” because each consists of a network of lines and notations which are meant to convey a story, typically about a recent event of interest to me, like the collapse of a large international bank, trading company, or investment house.

One of my goals is to explore the interaction of political, social and economic forces in contemporary affairs.

…Working from syndicated news items and other published accounts, I begin each drawing by compiling large amounts of information about a specific bank, financial group or set of individuals.

After a careful review of the literature I then condense the essential points into an assortment of notations and other brief statements of fact, out of which an image begins to emerge.

But my assumption is that regardless of whether you think it’s relevant or not, working with ever-larger data sets will remain the domain of design for years to come, as we continue to be inundated with more sources of information, and proportionally fewer ways to handle and understand them.

In the past few years, data visualization has seen far more exposure amongst the design community.


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