Nature as a Mediator for Making: Data Visualizations of the Wind Recordings of Horn Island, Transformed and Reinterpreted Across Media

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Interactive & Motion, Research, Typography & Print

The natural environment encompasses all living and nonliving parts and systems that occur naturally in the world around us. As an observer and participant of the natural environment, I wonder how I might observe, participate, and collaborate with the environment and the natural systems occurring around me.

Exploring nature as a sort of mediator for making, I consider how systems of the natural environment might interact, overlap, and contribute to designed processes, introducing a certain unfamiliar or unknown variable into the making experience. This variable captures moments of movement, gesture, and pattern in nature, from the tangible to the intangible systems working all around us.

The results of this collaboration with nature are process-driven recordings of the natural forms and systems occurring at defined locations and times.

I view my recordings of nature as data visualizations or graphical interpretations of the landscapes and ecosystems of diverse and distinct places; they are the recordings of the experiences that take place and the interactions and exchanges that happen in-between, curated in such a way that we are able to observe and discern these natural systems through different mediums. With the primary investigation to explore form and artistic practice as a means for making unexpected solutions, these data visualizations are recorded, transformed, and reinterpreted across media and processes.

details
This series visualizes the movements, gestures, and patterns of the wind on Horn Island, Mississippi. Thinking about how the wind can be recorded visually as data using analog methods, I designed a drawing tool that recorded the wind onto a drawing surface over a duration of five days. This making experience, a collaboration with the natural environment, resulted in a series of 2-dimensional data visualizations; the data being the recordings of the wind on the island of Horn Island. The artifacts are captured moments of wind across location and time. The wind represents a function of time, the longer the duration of time on the drawing surface, the darker, and more saturated the marks become.

The next inquiry considered how creative technologies could be used to reimagine these 2D abstract data visualizations in other formats. After experiments of trial and error, working through design processes to critique, refine, edit solutions, I created multiple digital processes that resulted in 3D and 4D formats to transform and reinterpret the wind recordings.

The 3D formats explored static, analog solutions to reimagine the wind’s movements, gestures, and patterns. Working with 3D modeling software and 3D printers, the result was a series of object visualizations that extruded points of the 2D drawings into a 3D topographical representation. The object visualizations were rendered with the highest points representing the darkest areas of the original drawings, while the lowest points represented the lightest areas.

The 4D formats explored time-based, digital solutions to reimagine the wind’s movements, gestures, and patterns. Working with the open-source coding language, processing, the result was a series of dynamic visualizations that animated the points of the 2D drawings into a 3D orbital sequence. The dynamic visualizations were rendered with the largest variation in the z-axis, using a range of noise/randomness, to represent the lightest areas of the original drawings, while the smallest variation in the z-axis represented the darkest areas.

final thoughts
This body of work explores how nature can be a collaborator and mediator in making processes and artifacts to visualize and record natural ecosystems of diverse and distinct places. Each recording, transformation, and reinterpretation offer a different visual perspective of what we see and comprehend of these natural systems that operate all around us.

Horn Island series
Monday, May 21, 2018 — Friday, May 25, 2018
36 recordings total, wind drawings, marker on canvas
72 transformation and reinterpretations total, topographical 3D prints and digital animations

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