Ash at CIID

Ashwin Rajan's blog while at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design.

Posts Tagged ‘cloud

Provocations: Making Sustainable Practices A Currency

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Based on user feedback on the Elevator Buzz concept for Intel, my team quickly realized that systemic solutions designed to generate and sustain conversations around sustainable practices had viability. Then our next concern became the issue that some users had raised around ‘incentive’ – “I think this is a good thing to part of, but whats in it for me?” This got us interested in alternative currencies – can sustainable choices made by individuals translate into a currency with the possibility for real world use?

As an impromptu exercise for provoking new perspectives when exploring this area, here are some word clouds I generated on Wordle. I used the Wikipedia Community Currencies page and the Kashklash project home page to find make three different wordles. Interestingly, they had different characteristics as seen below.

Wordle of five random articles from Wikipedia's 'Community Currencies' page. Made with

Wordle of five random articles from Wikipedia's 'Community Currencies' page. Made with

When five random articles from Wikipedia’s ‘Community Currencies’ pages were wordled together, the word ‘currency’ obviously stood out, with ‘eco-money’ making a surprise leap into the forefront.

Wordle of almost all pages together from Wikipedia's 'Community Currencies' page. Made with

Wordle of almost all pages together from Wikipedia's 'Community Currencies' page. Made with

But when almost all the articles from Wikipedia’s ‘Community Currencies’ pages were wordled together, ‘local’  was the clear winner, with ‘economic’, ‘services’ and ‘people’ starting to become prominent as well.

Wordle of text from's home page. Made with

Wordle of text from's home page. Made with

Finally, when the text from’s home page was wordled, the prominent words were even more interesting: ‘sharing’, ‘communities’, ‘people’, ‘future’.

Driven by exercises like these and others, my team began to explore the question about whether communities of practice could be built around sustainability, which could also exchange any ‘wealth’ generated between the individuals in the community.


History of Religion Visualization

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Check out this compelling information visualization on the history of religion in movie format. The movie approach to presenting visualizations is very effective for communicating encapsulated information about limited and specific parameters – in this case WHEN, WHICH and HOW MUCH five dominant religions flourished.

A visulization of the history of religion in movie format

A visulization of the history of religion in movie format

This mode is the opposite approach to an interactive timeline/map approach, where all of the information would be available upfront, and the user learns primarily by exploring the interface. In which case, the customization made available to users is gained by trading off the goal to communicate something very specific as is achieved by this visualization.

Come to think of it, it is surprisingly difficult to go beyond the handful of infoviz presentation formats in currency today.  Maps, charts, graphs, clouds, trees and network diagrams seem to dominate in different forms and variations. And this is true for two reasons – its incredibly hard to find new metaphors that do a great job of representing qualitative information, and secondly, I suspect it has a lot to do with our own preferred ways of ‘seeing meaning’ – the information scanning, browsing and seeking behaviors we are most attuned to.

For instance, this is a list of Visualization Types provided by IBM’s ‘Many Eyes’. While the formats are decidely limited, the possibilities of exploiting these formats to present various types and degrees of qualitative information (as suggested by the titles they are grouped under) catch my eye.

1. See the world:
-World maps
-Country maps

2.Track rises and falls over time:
-Line graph
-Stack graph
-Stack graph for categories

3.Compare a set of values:
-Bar chart
-Block histogram
-Bubble chart
-Matrix chart

4.See relationships among data points
-Network diagram

5.See parts of a whole
-Pie chart
-Tree map
-Change tree map

6.Look for common words in a text
-Tag cloud
-Word tree

Written by Ashwin Rajan

January 2, 2009 at 4:38 am

“Welcome to the cloud, Ash! How are you feeling?”

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I have been using Ubiquity from Mozilla Labs for just a few days now, and I must say I was an avowed fan from the word go! But to run Ubiquity I had to choose to dedicate my web browsing to the Firefox browser – so Layer one: download and install firefox. Layer two: install the Ubiquity extension for Firefox. I have been enjoying the nifty little tool’s limited by truly special capabilities for some days post Layer two. The ‘highlight and translate text’ is only one of those spot-on features for me (the country I live in and a lot of the web content I get interested in doesn’t use English.) And so this morning I tried something new on Ubiquity – I pressed Control A, highlighting all the content on a (German?) web page I had reached, and hit ‘translate’. This is the message I got:

Ubiquity error

A transparent message? Hmmm… Nope I don’t get it, but I am looking up ‘Growl!’ now (whatever that is), to see what it can do. That’s Layer 3.

Message on the Growl! home page:

What does Growl do?
Growl lets Mac OS X applications unintrusively tell you when things happen. To see it in action, see our About page.

“Unintrusively tell you when things happen” – I have no idea what that means, but I like they way they put it!

Point being, the more we want to get done, the deeper we go into the ‘cloud’: utilities that work with other, nested, utilities, which in turn connect and bounce off and run on the rails of still more utilities. With Level three and beyond, the deep interconnectedness of these nebulous objects offers pointed implications for both the potentials and the perils of being in the cloud.

The term ‘Cloud computing’, by the way, it turns out, refers to the IT infrastructural aspect of the thing.

Oh, and it doesn’t look like Growl! has anything to do with fixing the initial bug on Ubiquity. Of course, the problem was I chose all content on a page (text, images, links everything) at one go and hit ‘translate’ – a nonsense action for the types of content selected. But the response was – get Growl! I wonder why it said that? Go figure …

Written by Ashwin Rajan

December 22, 2008 at 11:46 am