eyeo 2013 festival experiences

eyeo-toolmakers

Toolmakers Bill Atkinson (Hypercard creator), Kyle McDonald (openFrameworks contributor/team member), and Casey Reas (Processing co-founder), and host Jer Thorp.

The eyeo festival gathered once again a diverse group of data designers, artists and visualization enthusiasts to Minneapolis. Four days of talks covered a wide variety of subjects around a few central themes.

One interesting development was that the main questions being discussed relating to data visualization on the web have clearly shifted from “what?” and “how?” into “why?”. Only a few years ago one could take almost any dataset, define a visual mapping for the variables, produce a graphic, publish it online and become internet famous overnight. Today the web is full of this type of visualization work and the best ones stand out by having an interesting perspective and storyline.

Many of the speakers are or have been involved in developing tools (such as Processing, D3 & HyperCard) for authoring interactive content. A shared sentiment among the toolmakers was that good tools empower users to create, as Bill Atkinson put it, “let you think in the terms of what you are creating”. The subject of toolmaking also relates to teaching and education. Currently most students only learn how to use ready made software tools that have certain predefined functionality. In a way if you don’t make the tools, the tools make you. Only by learning to make and adapt tools can students truly take ownership of the digital medium.

Memo Akten approached the tool subject from an art perspective. Good artists have fully internalized the tools they use. By internalizing toolmaking tools such as Processing or OpenFrameworks a computational artist can achieve a level of finesse that gives the work poetic quality.

The atmosphere of the festival was very enthusiastic and inspiring. I’m sure I have met more new people during the festival than the whole year before. Looking forward to next year!

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