Thanks to crowdsourcing, data visualization techniques, and the growing number of data miners, the dizzying amount of data that defines every aspect of our daily lives can be converted into consumable information. The animated map of earthquakes in the Asia-Pacific region and the Logo cartograms of migration data are just two examples of how the combined work of statisticians and graphic designers can help us truly understand complex phenomena.
German artists Anselm Venezian Nehls and Carl Schilde, who together form Heavy Listening, developed a variation on this concept with #tweetscapes, a real-time animated map of German Twitter users. Each tweet from a German user creates a lightning bolt on the map at the exact location of the user’s IP address, triggering a short tune created using a sonification technique.
The artists explain the experience on the project’s blog:
How would it be if you could not only read Twitter, but also experience it sensually? If you could hear, see, feel, what is happening right now? #tweetscapes addresses this question and offers a new way of accessing the social network. All German tweets are converted into abstract sounds and pictures in real-time around the clock—not arbitrarily, but according to a fixed set of rules. In this way, listening can allow you to draw conclusions about the underlying data, which go beyond the specific content of individual tweets and demonstrate communicative relationships. The first flaring up of a tweet, the rapid dissemination of its echoes and retweets, the “essential sound” of a day marked by a certain topic—all of these aspects become intuitively comprehensible. Twitter becomes ambience; the user becomes part of the data stream.