The Boston Globe today wrote about how the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum had spent $184,000 for a new Steinway. I was scratching my head. Why would a Boston civic institution like the Gardner get a Steinway from Hamburg, Germany, when it could go up the road to Haverhill and support a local business, Mason & Hamlin? Plus, it would be bringing a bit of diversity to the Boston music scene, which like most places is dominated by Steinway pianos. M&H is known as the grand piano maker that doesn’t churn out Steinway clones. Picking an M&H piano would have made a civic statement, and perhaps brought some intrigue to the Gardner’s musical programs.
Archive for August, 2012
Big data has buzz — I even saw a guy recently wearing a t-shirt saying “I like big data and I cannot lie.” But big data is also daunting. It evokes images of being crushed under the weight of information, like the knowledge workers in Alan Lightman’s Diagnosis.
So I found it refreshing to write this piece on big data turned into a field of flowers. The OECD’s Better Life Index takes a great deal of data and lets you decide what’s most important to you, depicted as a flower.
It’s the opposite of dumbing down the data — it makes it more meaningful. As designer Moritz Stefaner noted, large data sets about humans often lend themselves to natural visualizations.
The piece is for a new publication, Data Informed, which aims to demystify the volume of data that is now gathered, in part through looking at clever visualizations.