Visual Complexity

By: Peter Durrand

VisualcomplexityIf Edward Tufte is the master teacher of visualizing data, then is the treasure trove of data-driven visuals.

Complexity is a challenge by itself,” writes Portugal native, Manuel Lima. This project to map the maps that illuminate intricate networks has grown out of Manuel’s work at the Design+Technology program at Parsons School of Design, where he earned an MFA.

Currently working as an interaction designer at R/GA Interactive, Lima has created VisualComplexity as an integrated and extensive resource on the topic.

However, it often looks more like an exquisite butterfly collection. The resulting gallery of images is a powerful–and beautiful–filter through which one can see the invisible webs that connect the systems we depend upon: the biological, the cosmic, the financial, the social.

Complex Networks are everywhere. It is a structural and organizational principle that reaches almost every field we can think of, from genes to power systems, from food webs to market shares.”

The field of complexity science has exploded since the early 1990s, as economists and scientists from all fields have leveraged the increasing processing power of computers, and rendered the resulting data using innovative graphic user interfaces. Now, data that used to take a supercomputer days to process and render is broadcast in real time on the Weather Channel and Google Earth.

The basic elements of complexity are:

  • Agents (whether viruses, airplanes or stock brokers)
  • Emergent Behavior (usually guided by simple rules, ex. traffic lights, flocking, buying and selling)
  • Patterns (the resulting “webs” that trace connections and movement over time or structures that are created)
  • Self-organization (in which the internal organization of a system, normally an open system, improves automatically without being guided or managed by an outside source)

The global effort of constructing a general theory of complexity,” says Lima “is tremendous and may lead us, not only to a structural understanding of networks, but to major improvements in stability, robustness and security of most complex systems around the globe.”

From the site: intends to be a unified resource space for anyone interested in the visualization of complex networks. The project’s main goal is to leverage a critical understanding of different visualization methods, across a series of disciplines, as diverse as Biology, Social Networks or the World Wide Web. I truly hope this space can inspire, motivate and enlighten any person doing research on this field.

Not all projects shown here are genuine complex networks, in the sense that they aren’t necessarily at the edge of chaos, or show an irregular and systematic degree of connectivity. However, the projects that apparently skip this class were chosen for two important reasons. They either provide advancement in terms of visual depiction techniques/methods or show conceptual uniqueness and originality in the choice of a subject. Nevertheless, all projects have one trait in common: the whole is always more than the sum of its parts.

Source: The Graphic Facilitation