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Christopher T. Ogden

Blog About Projects

25 Mar 2012
Substratum Series

Substratum Categories

The Great Discontent seems to be getting all the attention these days, at least as far as interviews of creatives are concerned (though I could easily be mistaken, thrown off by my personal reading and browsing habits). And this attention is well deserved; Ryan and Tina Essmaker of Designing Monsters have done a great job with the site’s design, as well as posting great interviews.

But you should also spare some time for the Substratum Series by Interactive Things. The selection of topics is a bit broader, the design just as pleasing, and the content, I think, is even more insightful. For instance:

This is why my work has very much shifted into how we use the data. I think it’s necessary – but radically insufficient – to produce a visualization. It’s important how you then act on that knowledge and use the data and the visualization to validate your theories. The most useful metric I used to measure the success of a project was the appearance of Aaron’s Skipper. This butterfly is critically dependent on the sage grass that only grows in particular brackish water and I knew that if the animal volunteers to be there, then I’ve done a good job. All of the water quality measurements and real time monitoring gets integrated into the autonomous decision of this butterfly to be there. This is legible for everyone. I can show people water quality data and they couldn’t care less – even if it were a beautiful visualization. But to have a butterfly as a metric – or what I would call visualization – is much more believable than an EPA person saying, “The water quality’s good, we’ve done ecological restorations.” It’s the independence of that butterfly, it’s autonomy, it’s agency to say, “I’ll hang out here” that really validates what I’m trying to do.

—Natalie Jeremijenko, Substratum Issue 7

If that was meaningful to you, then there’s no need for me to say, “Don’t miss!”