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Daily Archives: February 1st, 2008

I’m so excited to write about this particular project, one that has been in the works for a while.

I’ve been working with Situ Studio, a firm that utilizes emerging technologies at the intersection of architecture and a variety of other disciplines, to develop demographic mapping and data visualization solutions for public libraries. I cannot speak highly enough of the work these guys have done and are capable of doing.

Urban public libraries are not in the business of collecting demographic data; other agencies do the collecting. Our business is correctly interpreting the data in order to create a strategic plan and implement appropriate library service. Libraries need a clear, efficient means of displaying data for internal analysis. Further, they need a display format that serves as a simple means of communication with external parties, a visual tool within which they can frame arguments and demonstrate demographic shifts and trends. With training, a presenter using this tool can illustrate compelling, anecdotal, case-study style scenarios with facts, statistics and metrics.

Large sets of data are most easily interpreted when represented visually, rather than in a tabular or textual presentation. As a means of communication, information visualization has surpassed the archaic database and spreadsheet formats we are accustomed to. The screenshots below use a digitally rendered map of Brooklyn to display demographic data in a spatial context. The data fields represented are merely examples of what such a map can offer, and should be considered a foundation from which a more complex map can be built.

Below are a few teaser images that really only halfway describe the possibilities associated with the work we’ve accomplished so far.


The image above shows a bus map, library facilities in red with the diameter representing the size of the collection, and schools in green with the diameter representing the size of the student body.


Above is a map showing Red Hook, displaying census data by tract as well as physical boundaries to library service (for example the BQE, in yellow).


Another display of census data by tract.

Again, this is really just the beginning of something important, and I’m happy to share some sample images from the much more extensive animation sequences the crew at Situ put together. This represents a new way for libraries to communicate internally and externally. Stay tuned for further developments.


Its cool when an old friend from college (Sarah Wharton) gets in touch with you through Facebook.

Its even cooler when you find out that they work in the same profession that you do, and they have interesting projects going on.

But the coolest is when your old friend brings you diseases and epidemics.

Click on the image to check out this newly launched amazing digital content from the Harvard Library Open Collections.


I haven’t written much in the past few days because I’ve been slammed with work. Readers can expect a flurry of activity now that I’m emerging from my pile of projects.

Last night I attended a panel discussion at the Pratt Institute called “Tipping Points: Art, Politics, and Civic Engagement”. I really expected a packed house for this discussion, but I think the democratic debate had many people otherwise engaged. The program was moderated by Susan Szenasy, editor-in-chief of Metropolis Magazine. Some of the speakers really had excellent things to say. Check out the panel:

• Letitia James = City Councilwoman; Brooklyn, District 35
• Wendy Feuer – Asst. Commissioner for Urban Art and Planning; DOT
• Laurie Kerr – Mayor’s Office for Long Term Planning and Sustainability
• Blaise Backer – Director, Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project
• Sean Meenan – Habana Outpost
• Deborah Marton – The Design Trust for Public Space
• Eva Hanhardt – professor/coordinator EMS planning

Letitia James was the first one to bring up the carbon belt and the health problems associated with living by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. I felt that one: I live by the BQE, only further north in Brooklyn. She spoke about the city’s aging infrastructure and the need to update it. She also brought up the fact that we can’t really go with congestion pricing

I was interested in Blaise Backer’s commentary. As the director of the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District, he has to encourage business owners to think about sustainability in their practices while he supports them in their quest for profits and success. Sometimes it is not easy to do this. For example, there was an initiative to plant new trees all along Myrtle Avenue. You would think that everyone would immediately support something like that, but to a business owner the tree represents a potential liability to passers-by. It also obscures the awning of a ground level store, making it harder to bring in foot traffic.

I was exceptionally impressed with Deborah Marton and the work of The Design Trust for Public Space. If I understood correctly, Marton’s work involved taking the design innovations and breakthroughs from the private investment and development, where money often abounds, translating this information into a format that the Department of Design and Construction can use for public agencies with building projects, and then serving as something of a link between the DDC and the public agency to ensure that the job gets done efficiently. I’ll have to read more about this, but what a great mission: to act as a non-profit that brings private innovations to public agencies.

Finally, Sean Meenan of Habana Outpost was great. That restaurant is awesome, and he brought a real down-to-earth, lets stop talking about all of this, do it, and have fun the whole time attitude to everything. Habana Outpost is solar powered, and only uses corn plastics for their cups and silverware. They have worked with architecture and design students from Pratt so they reclaim all of their water. Sean was exactly the kind of guy you would want to bring in to talk to a bunch of teenagers or kids about these issues, because he was the kind of guy they’d respect. He even drives a car the that will run on the used fry oil from his restaurant. I’ll be looking into getting him to a do a program at the Brooklyn Public Library some time.

Finally Chris Jordan showed us his “Portraits of American Mass Consumption” which demonstrate just how much  junk we go through every day. Cell phones discarded, stack and stacks of computer paper, disposable beverage cups… Great stuff.