rebecca's WIP

research & reference

I consume so many different kinds of amazing stories — written, visual, interactive — on a daily, or at the very least weekly, basis as part of my job and my own personal interest. I also think that as a designer and storyteller, it’s important for me to experience the ways other people are telling stories and develop my own critical perspective in responsive to them. Partially inspired by Rachel Schallom’s “Best of Visual Storytelling” newsletter, and partially driven by my own desire to exhaustively record most things I do and think about, I’ve decided to start posting my favorite experiments in storytelling on a weekly basis. The result will be not much writing, mostly links (sometimes new, sometimes old), and hopefully a nice archive of inspiration for myself and others.

This week:

Faces of an Epidemic (New Yorker)
A photo essay about the opioid epidemic, that uses a tap story format for both desktop and mobile. I have some critiques of aspects of the interaction design on mobile, but I am generally interested in this kind of slide or card-based format where stories are broken out into small, discrete chunks.

Fragments of a Life: A Curbside Mystery (The New York Times)
This “live journalism” piece is not new, but it’s so interesting and won lots of awards — rightfully so. Its archive detective-story proposition reminds me of the play Say Something Bunny in journalistic form.

Flint is a Place (Created by Zackary Canepari)
A “cross platform episodic documentary” about Flint, Michigan. The chapter called Briana is a beautiful use of scroll to present small bits of content in a diaristic way.

Las Vegas Shooting Timeline Video (The New York Times)
Video becomes a vehicle for a new kind of investigative storytelling that is format-specific.

Boko Haram Photo Essay (The New York Times)
Striking scroll-based photo essay punctuated by an article in multiple pieces. The way the photos dim as you scroll is a nice example of form << >> content in perfect alignment.

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been looking at a lot of maps and gathering the ones I love. This has been the first time I feel excited about data and the possibilities of working with geospatial information. Here is a preliminary list of my favorites (Rebecca Solnit wins for the way she juxtaposes different kinds of information in a poetic way).

Rebecca Solnit, Death and Beauty (from Infinite City)

Zach Schwartz, Death Map

Ingrid Burrington, Center for Missed Connections

This map by Alfred Wainwright

NYPL, Old NYC: Mapping Historical Photos from the NYPL

GPS Self Portraits

Kate McLean, Sensory Maps / Smellscapes

Sharon Mattern, Maps as Media: Class Syllabus

MIT, Critical Cartography (so many links!)

GeoGuessr, a Google Maps guessing game

Dennis Wood, Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas

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Ingrid Burrington on mapping the invisible, from Eyeo 2015

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Human Harp is a wearable instrument for suspension bridges by artist Di Mainstone. I came across the project in my research about wearable projects and their expressive potential.

As part of the early stages of my final project, I’ve been thinking a lot (loosely, conceptually) about the relationship between the body and the environment as a central question I’d like to explore. This project seems to deal with this question on a deep level (although in a very different way than I hope to). I love the parallel that it makes between the body and the bridge, almost as if the body and the bridge become one. The project also makes me think about sound as material, and this idea of giving visibility and material form to that which is often invisible around us.

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I came across this project by The Unseen that felt relevant to some of the things I’ve been thinking about in my first round of research and project-development around estrogen in the water supply.

The Unseen created a specialized fabric that changes color according to stimuli in the environment. According to their description, “the nano compounds / inks and dyes are capable of sensing up-to seven stimuli in the environment such as heat, UV, pollution, moisture, chemicals, friction and sound. Each of these stimuli have a different color changing effect on a given surface. for instance, heat affects color in RGB and pantone irreversibly, where pollution can only go back and forth, from yellow to black.”

This idea of visualizing otherwise invisible environmental stimuli — and especially through a change in color— reminds me a lot of my own thinking around my estrogen-detecting swimsuit that I was originally envisioning as a litmus test to be worn on the body. The aesthetic register of this project is very different (it feels very much in the realm of fashion / luxury) but the principle is analogous.

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The Thighmaster is a personal wearable device for people suffering from global warming guilt. Whenever the sensors in the wearer’s home detect an overconsumption of electricity or other environmental sin, the device drives stainless steel thorns into the wearer’s thigh as punishment. 

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This past weekend, I saw a series of sculptural poems by Carl Andre at Dia:Beacon that really caught my eye. I’d eventually like to make something in the class that involves visual poetry and computation, so I’m holding onto these as a reference for now.


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Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 10.53.22 AM

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An interesting reference for Root Note, and thinking about how it might exist on a larger scale (or with a visual element).

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