Zeitgest View

Crossposted from TNN.
I've embedded a fascinating video on TED Talks by Jonathan Harris which covers various visualisations of aggregated data.

The section which interests me most is towards the end where he reveals a visualization called "'Universe,' which presents current events as constellations of words — a tag cloud of our collective consciousness." This is a variation on a tag cloud represented as a night sky of constellations. He has used a news scraping service to gather data and then visualises commonly emerging themes as star maps. Clicking on any part of the night sky reveals its "secrets" and it is also possible to "centre" the universe on any part of it. For example, he shows the universe of Bill Clinton in various ways.
Between this and interfaces such as Photosynth, we're starting to see interesting interactions which appear to feature 3 main elements:

  • Data scraping
  • Tag aggregation
  • Visualization mechanisms

The key is that there are massive amounts of data that can be harvested and that that data itself has user-generated metadata. To me what is exciting is that this is a way of getting at, for want of a better term, "folk" content – i.e. the kind of content which is put online by us.