martedì 25 ottobre 2016

DatArt - Visualizing American Painters

10/25/2016 01:26:00 AM

This project was quite important for me. I was looking for a topic in the humanities, to create a dataviz for my thesis. Speaking of data in the humanities is problematic and controversial. In most cases the humanistic information relies on records, whether newspapers, books, magazines, articles, schools, colleges, maps. Any record of human experience can be a source for humanistic scholar, in contrast, for example, a scientist. That's why the humanities information is so peculiar. Must often deal with analog data, not discrete, they need to be translated into digital format to be used and processed. Moreover these data are usually part of a semiotic system that transcend physical measures.

Looking for a purely cultural topic for this dataviz, the first inspiration is actually came from an element I always had in plain view. The wallpaper chosen on my pc's desktop. Nighthawks, a painting by Edward Hopper, realized in 1942 and considered the most famous work by the American artist. So the idea was to explore the life, works, and as much as it were possible, of the American painters.

The first thing to do was to select the American artists to include in my viz. After some research the selected artists were: Andy Warhol, Edward Hopper, Paul Jackson Pollock, Roy Fox Lichtenstein, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Keith Haring, George Wesley Bellows, Georgia O'Keefe, Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, Charles Sheeler, John French Sloan, Winslow Homer, Richard Diebenkorn and Frederic Sackrider Remington. Secondly it was essential to define what information was necessary to built the dataset with Excel. It was important to enable users to be able to really explore the viz and discover little by little interesting information on painters, as in the tradition of any good data visualization. The goal was not only to present graphs and simple data. Nothing is more representative of a painter unless his works. This is why I felt it was important to leave a space even to their paintings, in an attempt to create a kind of small interactive museum.

The central area of ​​the viz is dedicated to the auctioned pieces. The chart type I chose is a scatter plot. The idea of ​​using the brush stroke (with different colors according to the author) as indicative form of various pieces is a decision that must be justified. In a static viz this kind of chart would lose much of its effectiveness, making informations of the paintings sold at the lowest price virtually unreadable. I privileged the aesthetic appearance, aware that the tooltips and the table next to the chart, showing the title, price and author of all the pieces, would allowed to remedy this shortcoming.

The dataviz was then saved and published on Tableau Public, so that can be downloaded and shared by anyone. It received a mention as Viz Of The Day by Tableau Public, and is so inserted in the gallery section of the site and publicized online on September 15, 2016.

This is the description of my viz, made by Tableau Public: 
Filippo Mastroianni's viz shows off American Painters and their works, covering auction prices, artist birthplaces and life spans, and even shows self-portraits of the artists themselves. What a masterpiece!

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