Faculty Learning Communities: Data Visualization

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If you are interested in the Fall 08 workshop on the Aesthetics of Data Visualization, please go here

(Image from datavisualization.ch)

Let the data set change your mind-set --Hans Rosler

A faculty learning community (FLC) is comprised of a group of faculty who meet regularly to discuss and explore a common area of interest. The group defines its scope, schedule, and agenda. ETS will serve as a resource for the learning community and provide support as needed. Each FLC will report on its deliberations at the end of the school year in a forum of the group's choosing. Participation requires a full academic year commitment.



David Bickar (Chemistry) (link) Bickar.jpg
Robert Dorit (Biological Sciences) (link) Dorit.jpg
Judy Franklin (Computer Science) (.) Franklin.jpg
Aisha Gabriel (ETS, Faculty Learning Community liaison) Gabriel.jpg
Virginia Hayssen (Biology) (link) Hayssen.jpg
Nick Horton (Math & Stats) (link) Horton.jpg
Christopher Loring (Director of Libraries) Loring.jpg
Catherine McCune (Director Quantitative Learning Center) Mccune.jpg
Eitan Mendelowitz (Computer Science, Art) (link) Mendelowitz.jpg
Chester Michalik (Art & photography) Chester.jpg
Larry Owens (History, Umass) Larryowens.jpg
Lee Spector (Computer Science/Cognitive Science, Hampshire College) (link) Spector.jpg
Dominique Thiebaut, (Computer Science) organizer (link) Thiebaut.jpg
Doreen Weinberger (Physics) (link) Weinberger.jpg



Invited Speaker: Matthew Mattingly

Multimedia Tools for Data Visualization in Education
Matthew Mattingly
Multimedia Director
Center for Educational Software Development (CESD)

Educational multimedia applications present a variety of data visualization challenges that are not always addressed by standard formats and approaches. The types of data involved may be very specific to a topic or discipline, and the context in which they are to be displayed may not be a simple transfer of information. Study aids, assessment tools and constructivist learning activities are among the applications that use data visualization for learning, and each requires a different mode of presentation. In this talk, Mr. Mattingly will demonstrate some of the projects that the UMass CESD has produced, including interactive simulations, time and map-based displays, and construction activities, and will discuss the processes of their design and development.
He will also introduce some new directions and tools, including online collaboration combined with mobile devices and locative media.
Link to Matthew Mattingly's material: http://www.cesd.umass.edu/smith-talk.html

Food for Thought

Journalism in the Age of Data

A very nice overview of the state of data visualization. Some of the people interviewed: Martin Wattenberg, Fernanda Viegas, Ben Fry, Jeffrey Heer, Steve Duenes, Matt Ericson, Amanda Cox, Nicholas Felton, Eric Rodenbeck.

Although the video is available on Vimeo, watch it directly on the Stanford's site, where it is annotated.

Augmented Reality Book

From Mark Lukas, [1]: This is a concept and a demo of a book and augmented-reality display of the book contents. The book comes with a CD, which, when loaded up in a laptop uses the video-cam to detect symbols on the pages of the book and displays 3D graphics superimposed on the book.

Implementation: Flash, Felx, Flartoolkit, ARToolkit


  • 3rd most popular tool in poll



  • discussion on the presentation on R from last week.



From TED.com: David McCandless turns complex data sets (like worldwide military spending, media buzz, Facebook status updates) into beautiful, simple diagrams that tease out unseen patterns and connections. Good design, he suggests, is the best way to navigate information glut -- and it may just change the way we see the world.


Invited Speaker: Michael Olkin

  • Michael Olkin, GIS Manager for the town of Amherst gives a guest lecture. Olkin worked as GIS Manager for the Town of West Springfield, MA, and worked for Applied Geographics, Inc (AGI). Olkin also served as GIS Coordinator for the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission and as GIS consultant for the City of Northampton, MA.
    Olkin holds a Masters in Geography from the University of Connecticut.

Notable News Items

  • Flight Patterns of Refugees: This is a very nice set of three different visualizations showing the flow of refugees through the world over a time scale, using data from the UN.
  • Data Store at the Guardian: The Guadian recently launched a new gateway to their data journalism and visualisations - find out what's new at guardian.co.uk/data


Invited Speaker: Prof. Greg Brown, Music Dept. Smith College


  • Greg Brown will explore the aesthetic and technical aspects of creating a virtual machine to generate music that evolves in an autonomous and quasi-organic nature. He will provide a brief discussion of the concept of sonification and a review of the rules for Conway's Game of Life and how they can be adapted to the sonic realm. Finally, there will be a presention the music itself along with concurrent video. (Personal Web Site)
  • Location FH246.

Recent Discoveries in Data Visualizations

Data Publishing Language


Category: Algorithm/Visual Data Structures
Where: code.google.com
Implementation: NA
Date: Feb 2011

From googleblog.blogspot.com: Today, we’re opening the Public Data Explorer to your data. We’re making a new data format, the Dataset Publishing Language (DSPL), openly available, and providing an interface for anyone to upload their datasets. DSPL is an XML-based format designed from the ground up to support rich, interactive visualizations like those in the Public Data Explorer. The DSPL language and upload interface are available in Google Labs.

Follow Google's tutorial on DSPL here.



Category: Algorithms
Where: www.aviz.fr
Implementation: Java
Date: 2010

From www.aviz.fr : GeneaQuilts is a new visualization technique for representing large genealogies of up to several thousand individuals. The visualization takes the form of a diagonally-filled matrix, where rows are individuals and columns are nuclear families. The GeneaQuilts system includes an overview, a timeline, search and filtering components, and a new interaction technique called Bring & Slide that allows fluid navigation in very large genealogies.

Map of Collaboration between Researchers


Category: Geographic/GIS
Where: science-metrix.com Olivier H. Beauchesne
Implementation: NA
Date: Jan 2011

From Beauchesne's blog: My employer, Science-Metrix, is bibliometric consulting firm. In other words, we engineer ways to measure the impact and growth of scientific discovery (and publications) in the world. To accomplish this, we license data from scientific journal aggregators like Elsevier’s Scopus and Thomson Reuter’s Web of Science. The data we have is bibliographic in nature. We don’t have the full text of the articles but rather citation networks, authors and their affiliations, abstracts, etc.

From this data, I extracted and aggregated scientific collaboration between cities all over the world. For example, if a UCLA researcher published a paper with a colleague at the University of Tokyo, this would create an instance of collaboration between Los Angeles and Tokyo. The result of this process is a very long list of city pairs, like Los Angeles-Tokyo, and the number of instances of scientific collaboration between them. Following that, I used the geoname.org database to convert the cities’ names to geographical coordinates.

The NYT maps census data


Category: Political/Census
Where: The New York Times
Implementation: GoogleMap API
Date: Dec 2010

From The New York Times: Browse local data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, based on samples from 2005 to 2009. Because these figures are based on samples, they are subject to a margin of error, particularly in places with a low population, and are best regarded as estimates.

Google API Table


Category: KMS/Software
Where: code.google.com
Implementation: NA
Date: 2011

From coolinfographics.com: From the Google Code site, the Periodic Table of Google APIs & Developer Tools is a cool layout of the tools available. It’s actually well designed table, so each element is clickable, and takes you to the information page about that particular API.

Byook: animated books


Category: News/Books
Where: byook.com
Implementation: NA
Date: Feb 2011

From byook.com: Byooks are a new way of reading on an iPhone/iPad.
Using magic and codes defined by books and movies, they entice you to read beyond words. Pictures, animations and sounds bring great classics and today’s bestsellers to life.
Relax, open a Byook and reveal the true potential of imagination.

Facebook Friendships


Category: Social Networks
Where: Paul Butler, of Facebook
Implementation: R
Date: Dec. 2010

In [2], Paul Butler says: I began by taking a sample of about ten million pairs of friends from Apache Hive, our data warehouse. I combined that data with each user's current city and summed the number of friends between each pair of cities. Then I merged the data with the longitude and latitude of each city.

At that point, I began exploring it in R, an open-source statistics environment. As a sanity check, I plotted points at some of the latitude and longitude coordinates...

4/15/11 Meeting

  • Jon Carris presents his notes from the Amanda Cox talk at Umass. PDF available here.
  • Dominique Thiebaut presents his first attempt at using Google's DSPL (Data Set Language). Tutorial available | here.