Digital Fill: Infographics

I’ve been doing a lot of work around data visualiation lately. Writing about it, sharing it, researching it. I’m even getting ready to launch an infographic series with a non-profit organization I work with (stay tuned for that.) Data visualization is taking a lot of data and presenting it in a visual and efficient way. The end result is an infographic. Magazines like The Atlantic and newspapers like The Guardian first made them popular (think Harper’s Index, only in pictures.) The web loves them because they’re easy to share and “like.” As well, in true millennial online spirit, infographics are easy on the eyes. And we’re beginning to see more sophisticated infographics appear across the interwebs.  According to writer and web guy, Darren Barefoot, data visualization is only going to become more popular. In fact, he’s recommending an education in data visualization if a journalism degree is your cup of tea.

Infographics are on the rise and I thought I’d share a handful of them, old and new, that I think are pretty cool.

This is an oldie but a goodie. Someone particularly clever has developed a series of infographics that represent famous movie quotes. Even though the actual quotes aren’t visible anywhere, I can still hear the actors saying it in my head.

This is a fairly recent infographic. I’m partial to it because it outlines the average day of an online community manager, which is pretty much what I do. It’s not too far from the truth with a few exceptions. Although, heaven knows who’s been working in social media for more than “20 years.” I dare you to prove me wrong on that one.

A friend of mine is an online community manager in China. I recently sat down with her and she explained to me the incredible selection China has to choose from when it comes to online communities. Here in North America, it’s easy to forget how other cultures and countries are using social media to connect and build community in their own ways. Infographics remind us how “flat” the world really is, at least in online terms.

You may recognize this infographic. It really made the online rounds in 2010. It presents the true size of Africa relative to the size of several countries.

Infographics don’t necessarily need to present massive sets of data. Sometimes it just takes one detail to make a visual impact. This particular infographic was featured on Mashable.com. A technician collected data from 80 different internet providers and visually pin pointed the moment when internet activity was stopped by the Egyptian government. Stunning, no?

Last but not least, this is an infographic an organization I work with, TheBigWild.org, produced last year. It’s called “How Wild is North America” and I’m fairly partial to it.

Great Ideas from Great Communities

The other day, my value-adding BFF, fellow Gumbooteer and most-powerful-redhead-since-Queen-Elizabeth-I, Theodora Lamb, shared an amazing video by Steven Johnson on Facebook. I’ve re-posted it below.

The creatively whiteboardy nature of the piece is reason enough to like it – a lot. And then there’s the message, which is truly inspiring. I recommend checking out his TED Talk for the full effect. Humbly, I will say that the decentralized, typically-Gen-Y-led globally connected webs of social networks present one of the only hopes for a happy and healthy future. So, well done, seemingly overwhelmed-by-multitasking-and-pretty-much-uninterested-young-people!

Our motto here at the Daily Gumboot is to “collect ideas from everywhere and use them to build community.” So you can understand why we love this message, as what is this online magazine if it’s not a place for many ideas to bump into each other – or, as Johnson says, “have sex with each other” – and, over time, turn into something beautiful.

“Chance favours the connected mind.” Amazing. And I think this is a lesson for all of our readers to do two things: first, tell 10 people about the Daily Gumboot; second, join our forum for discussion. And, hey, if you find a better twenty-first-century-salon/coffee-house than ours – for example, maybe you have a red head and want to collaborate with other ailing gingers – be a part of that discussion, too. Because ideas are only as great as the networks that they’re in. So build yours big today!

Oh, and if you plan to bump-ideas with Kurt Heinrich, just be patient. He will start out by talking a lot about Terminators (how to become one, how to stop them, what their strengths and weaknesses are, if they’re around today, right now, etc.). But if you hang in there and get through the ridiculousness, well, it typically turns into gold.

- JCH

Home, Earth and Beginnings

Lately, I’ve been hearing drums all around me.

There’s prominent drumming in Paul Simon’sGraceland” album, which I can’t seem to turn off these days. There’s drumming in “Rhythm,” a short and excellent documentary that features my friend Neelamjit, the finest tabla player you’ll ever hear, at least here in Vancouver. And there was nothing but drumming in the Cultural Olympiad event, “Sound of the Ocean,” a show by the U-Theatre from Taiwan.

When I first sat down to write this post, I thought I’d start off with a brief history lesson on drumming. I tossed the idea after I realized a history of using our hands, complete with opposable thumbs, on a surface to make  noise dates back to when we were primates far from the savannah, making music in the trees. That, and show me a culture that has never practiced rhythm in its history. So the best I can do is write about what happened when I watched and listened to “Sound of the Ocean.”

The show began with each performer silently walking on stage and taking their place in front of their instrument. After about five minutes of this, you’re on edge because you know what’s coming. But you’re still unprepared for the wave of sound that hits you out of the silence when they first touch their sticks to the drum skin. I’m not blind or deaf but if I were both, I can’t imagine it stopping me from experiencing some part of a drum performance like the one I watched. Each move the drummers took was a means to an end: the beat of a drum.  But the movement that was created was more like a dance than a gesture. And you could feel the power of the vibration of the drum in your seat and through the balls of your feet.

At one point, there were 15 people on stage, each of them drumming in perfect time. They knew the music and count inside and out. But watching them, you would never know when the rhythm or tempo was going to change up. When it did change, it happened in perfect sync. You know that feeling you get when you say a word at the same time someone else says it too? Jinx! It’s like that, multiplied by a thousand – a silent little victory inside your heart.

Huang Chih-Chun is the music director and drum master at U-Theatre. He tells us

“the changes in loudness remind us of the adaptability of water that flows downhill, willingly complying with the slope. The silence stands for the largest drop, and it’s also the moment of not knowing. The drumming remains unbroken despite intermittent strokes. But the intervals are not made of silence; they are filled with the primordial sound “om,” which in Buddhist cosmology fills the universe.”

I think I want to see more drumming. Watching those beautiful performers exercise perfect rhythm made me feel grounded and connected to everyone else in the room who, for all I know, were all thinking the same thing: “I know this sound. It reminds me of something from long ago – it speaks of home and earth and beginnings.”

Demotivational Blogging

Copyright Despair, Inc. - the people who help you balance the positive in your life!

©Copyright Despair, Inc. - balance the positive in your life!

My boss sent me this poster. First, I should tell you that my boss and I have a great relationship. She is fair, honest, direct, visionary, knows how to motivate her people, has a keen sense of how to realize talent, and, clearly, has a pretty wicked sense of humour. Second, she is a brilliant businesswoman who recognizes trends and who is also is rather skeptical of bloggers, blogs and their place as mediums of communication and sources of information – especially for entitled Millennials like myself. Third, she is a Master of Library Science, a leader of a renowned book club and a lover of the written word.

So, is she right? Should I take her demotivation seriously? And, more importantly, what are we – producers and consumers of the blogosphere – to do about the apt and serious issue of blogs, possibly, being vehicles for narcissistic intellectual masturbation?

I’ll tell you what we should do. We should have a meaningful and collaborative discussion about it. Here. On this blog.

Allow me to kick it off. Here are three reasons to embrace and develop the culture of blogging:

1. Citizen Journalism. Whether telling an interesting or important or touching story with words, photos or statistics, well, blogs can fill the giant, gaping holes left open by corporately held global media conglomerates by employing grassroots, community-based strategies. And, through microblogging and search engines, citizen journalists can connect and share ideas, resources and their passion for truth and social justice. Well, let’s face it, some citizen journalists probably like greed and slavery, too.

2. Personalization and Democracy. Today, people no longer need to buy a whole newspaper just to read the three things that interest them. With RSS feeds to your favourite blogs, you can easily begin and end your day with thousands of words and dozens of pictures that tell stories of the world the way you like ‘em told – and, to get some balance, you can throw in an RSS feed from the Fox News blog just to get an idea of where crazy is living on a daily basis.

3. Global social change. Just ask my good friend and DG Correspondent, Theo Lamb, about the blogosphere creating real change. A web of change, even. I mean, just check out how many blogs are actually about changing the world! Guy Kawasaki writes about changing the world all the time. And, if you check out this list, I’m sure you’ll be able peruse your personalized world-changing experience. And, here’s the kicker: through the interconnection of the series of pipes and tubes that is the interscape, all these twitbloggers can connect, create and collaborate to make the world a better place. And that’s a beautiful thing!

And here are some reasons that blogs are terrifying:

1. Narcissism. For all the striving for positive social change through ideas and collaboration to create a sense of urgency in order to tackle our most pressing global issues, well, there are Johnists. People who highjack spaces like The Gumboot – or create their own space – to share opinions that add little or no value to a discussion to pursue nonsensicle and/or meanspirited diatribes typically do so with only entitled self-interest in mind. These people are Tweeting too hard!

2. Noise and Crap. Pretty simple. The democratic nature of the interscape makes it so anyone twitblog through it and leave a trail of unreasonable comments behind them. Sometimes, online forums – where anonymity and safety bring out a little of the “crazy” in all of us – turn into something along the lines of the most poorly organized, attended and delivered townhall meeting. Ever. Do we really need this blog in our lives? And this kid still has a higher Google page rank than me!

3. Grammar. Blogs, in general, are vehicles that overrun the simple beauty that is the written word. Just read a discussion thread following any article on TSN.ca. And idioms like lol, lmao, ttyl, omg, btw, wtf, and the like are destroying the written word. Write in full sentences and take time to appreciate well-crafted prose, people. Do we really want to live in a culture of soundbites?

So there it is. A started conversation on the point of blogging. But, hey, since this amazing publication-meets-social-enterprise is about collecting ideas from everywhere we must know something: what do you think?

- JCH

...that is the question, and it's one for you to answer, dear readers!

...that is the question, and it's one for you to answer, dear readers!