Live, Vast and Deep: Web-native Information Visualization

Location: Marina Ballroom F Level: Novice

Information visualization as a field is moving out of the research lab and into our everyday lives, helping us make sense of the abundant data we produce. Tools like the Java-based Processing environment are emerging to enable designers to rapidly prototype graphical sketches of data, to look for patterns, and to ask new kinds of questions.

Old standbys like Flash are maturing into tools for real programmers, with powerful language constructs aimed at simplifying the graphical presentation of live/dynamic data. Sites like Many Eyes, Swivel, even Google Maps and Spreadsheets are allowing people to collaborate on data analysis and mapping publicly and with immediate feedback.

Stamen’s work in information visualization and mapping is among the most high profile online today, with the live visualizations at Digg Labs being just one of many examples. The studio’s approach is deeply pragmatic, always starting with real data and aiming to work with graphics on screen as soon as possible. Though all analysis is a work in progress, a project is usually finished when it shows something nobody has seen before, or builds a vocabulary for describing a system, or offers more questions than answers. And then the process begins again.

This workshop will share Stamen’s approach to data visualization with the ETech audience, outlining the process of taking a real data set from an online API (such as Flickr or Dopplr) and shaping it into an informative, beautiful, and useful interactive graphic presentation.

Along the way we’ll discuss some of the common pitfalls, gotchas, and issues associated with working with live/vast/deep data sets and discuss the underlying design decisions behind our own work, including an overview of some of the code that drives it. Attendees should leave the workshop with a good idea of how to go about visualizing their own data in the future.

Photo of Tom Carden

Tom Carden


Tom Carden joined Stamen in November 2006. Before that, he wrote passenger flow simulation software for London-based architecture firm YRM and studied for his Masters in Virtual Environments, Imaging and Visualisation at University College London. He also has a Bachelor’s degree in Artificial Intelligence with Mathematics from the University of Leeds.

Tom’s computer science background has always been balanced with a strong interest in design and visual arts and he is actively involved in the community surrounding the Processing development environment. He was an early participant in OpenStreetMap, a project that aims to create free maps of the world using GPS and aerial photography, and his personal weblog Random Etc. has been a place for thoughts, sketches, interactive maps and visualisations since 2003.

Photo of Eric Rodenbeck

Eric Rodenbeck

Stamen Design

Eric Rodenbeck is Stamen’s founder and creative director. He is a 10-year veteran of the interactive design field, and has spent this time working to extend the boundaries of online media and live information visualization.

Eric led the interactive storytelling and data-driven narrative effort at Quokka Sports, illustrated and designed at Wired and Wired Books, and was a co-founder of the design collective Umwow. He has lectured and spoken at Yale University, the University of Southern California, numerous O’Reilly technology conferences, Esther Dyson’s PC Forum, and South by Southwest, among others. Eric studied architecture at Cooper Union in New York City and received a B.A. in the History and Philosophy of Technology from The New School for Social Research.


Diamond Sponsor

  • Sun Microsystems

Gold Sponsors

  • Adobe Systems, Inc.
  • Amazon Web Services
  • Disney
  • Google
  • Make magazine
  • Yahoo! Inc.

Silver Sponsors

  • AdaptiveBlue
  • Jaduka

Premier Media Partner

  • ZDNet