Exhibit by Places and Spaces: “The term “macroscope” may strike many as being strange or even daunting. But actually, the term becomes friendlier when placed within the context of more familiar “scopes.” For instance, most of us have stared through a microscope. By doing so, we were able to see tiny plant or animal cells floating around before our very eyes. Similarly, many of us have peered out through a telescope into the night sky. There, we were able to see lunar craters, cloud belts on Jupiter, or the phases of Mercury. What both of these scopes have in common is that they allow the viewer to see objects that could otherwise not be perceived by the naked eye, either because they are too small or too distant.
But what if we want to better understand the complex systems or networks within which we operate and which have a profound, if often unperceived, impact on our lives? This is where macroscopes become such useful tools. They allow us to go beyond our focus on the single organism, the single social or natural phenomenon, or the single development in technology. Instead, macroscopes allow us to gather vast amounts of data about many kinds of organisms, environments, and technologies. And from that data, we can analyze and comprehend the way these elements co-exist, compete, or cooperate.
With the macroscope, we are allowed to see the “big picture,” a goal imagined in 1979 by Joël de Rosnay in his groundbreaking book, The Macroscope: A New World Scientific System. For the author, the macroscope would be the “symbol of a new way of seeing and understanding.” It was to be a tool “not used to make things larger or smaller but to observe what is at once too great, too slow, and too complex for our eyes.”
With these needs and insights in mind, the second decade of the Places & Spaces exhibit will invite and showcase interactive visualizations—our own exemplars of de Rosnay’s macroscope—that demonstrate the impact of different data cleaning, analysis, and visualization algorithms. It is the exhibit’s hope that this view of the “behind the scenes” process of data visualization will increase the ability of viewers to gain meaningful insights from such visualizations and empower people from all backgrounds to use data more effectively and endeavor to create maps that address their own needs and interests…(More)”.