Original post march 2008. Wonderful quote from Ben Frys Dissertation on Organic Information Design

Design techniques for static information are well understood, their descriptions and discourse thorough and well-evolved. These techniques fail, however, when dynamic information is considered. Dynamic information is continually changing data taken as input from one or many sources. Changes in the data can be alterations in values, or modifications to relationships within a data set.

There is a space of highly complex systems for which we lack deep understanding that could be made accessible through visualization. What does the world economy look like? How can the continuously changing structure of the internet be represented? It’s nearly impossible to approach these questions because few techniques exist for visualizing dynamic information. The solutions in this area begin with simple representations–a picture that can be a basis for a mental model. More advanced solutions aspire to full predictability and more objective methods of analysis.

There are multiple reasons for the lack of effective examples for the visualization of dynamically changing structures and values. How can extremely large quantities of data be handled? What happens when the extents and bounds of a data set are unclear? How can a continually changing structure be represented? To approach these problems, this research introduces a process of creating  dynamic visualizations called Organic Information Design. This process was developed through the study and analysis of decentralized and adaptive systems, in particular, the traits of simple organisms.

The traits:
structure, appearance, adaptation, metabolism, homeostasis, growth, responsiveness, movement and reproduction, all relate to a set of features that enable an organism to survive and respond to a complex and changing environment. By examining how these features make an organic system effective, insight is gained into how to design a visualization that responds to and synthesizes data in a similar manner. The result of the design process is an Organic Information Visualization, a system that augments the perception of qualitative features of dynamic data.

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