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Making Visible the Invisible, 2005-2014
Seattle Central Library, 6 LCD Screens on glass wall, 45" x 24'

“Making Visible the Invisible” is a commission for the Seattle Central Library, situated in the Mixing Chamber, a large open 19,500 sq ft space dedicated to information retrieval and public accessible computer research.

The installation consists of 6 large LCD screens located on a glass wall horizontally behind the librarians’ main information desk. The screens feature real-time calculated animation visualizations generated by custom designed statistical and algorithmic software using data received each hour. This data consists of a list of checked-out items organized in chronological order. The item may be a book, a DVD, a CD, a VHS tape, etc. and from the list we can collect and aggregate titles, checkout time, catalog descriptors such as keywords, Dewey classification code if they are non-fiction items. There are approximately 22000 items circulating per day. Items with Dewey Decimal System labels provide for a way to get a perspective on what subject matters are of current interest at any given time as the Dewey system classifies all items according to 10 major categories: 000 Generalities; 100 Philosophy & Psychology; 200 Religion; 300 Social Science; 400 Language; 500 Natural Science & Mathematics; 600 Technology & Applied Sciences; 700 Arts; 800 Literature; 900 Geography & History. These are then subdivided into 100 segments. There are 4 visualizations at this time.

The circulation of checked out books and media transforms the library into a data exchange center. This flow of information can be calculated mathematically, analyzed statistically and represented visually. From a cultural perspective, the result may be a good indicator of what the community of patrons considers interesting information at any specific time. Visualizing the statistical information of the titles and their categories therefore provides a real-time living picture of what the community is thinking.

PPT Presentation | Video


Visualization I: Vital Statistics

Screens 1,2 Screens 3,4 Screens 5,6  

Shows numerically what has circulated during the last hour and since the morning. Each of the 6 screens feature a specific sampled section of the list of items. Screen 1 shows the total number of items checked out; Screen 2 gives a count of the Dewey items checked out; Screen 3 features the total of Non-Dewey items; Screen 4 lists the Books checked out; Screen 5; the DVD’s checked out, and Screen 6 shows the sum of CD, VHS and tape media checked out. The background color is synchronized to change at each hour. It begins with orange in the morning, transitions to yellow by noon. At 1pm it shifts to green and by late afternoon goes from blue to purple. In this way, the color becomes an indicator of time.

Visualization II: Floating Titles

Screens 1,2 Screens 3,4 Screens 5,6  

This visualization features the checked-out items in a chronological sequence. Each time-stamped title enters the screens from the far right and slowly moves towards the left until the whole hour’s set of items have passed by. They are spaced in relation to each other based on time, so that items checked out at the same time will be close to each other. Gaps in the movement represent a lack of activity. The titles are color coded red for books, green for media (DVD, cd, video, etc.) and their vertical location on the screen are determined by their Dewey number if they have one with low numbers near the top and high numbers at the bottom. Dewey items carry with them their Dewey category number and description.

Visualization III: Dot Matrix Rain

Screens 1,2 Screens 3,4 Screens 5,6  

The screens are subdivided according to the Dewey Classification System consisting of 10 columns across and 100 bars vertically placed to represent the divisions of each category from 0 to 99. Checked out items’ titles come on the screen chronologically in two fashion, “falling from the sky” if they do not have a Dewey number, otherwise popping on screen at their Dewey location, which has the effect of brightening the bar’s color that represents their Dewey classification. Books are in yellow, DVD in green and other media in blue. By the end of the animation, the bars are color coded to provide an overview as to which Dewey categories received the most circulation.

Visualization IV: KeyWord Map Attack

Screens 1,2 Screens 3,4 Screens 5,6  

The screens are divided and color coded according to 1000 Dewey subcategories. Principal words from all the checked-out titles of the last hour are collected into a long database list. Keywords on record associated with the titles are sequentially added to the list keeping track of their Dewey subcategories association. The keywords are then “thrown on stage” one at a time showing their Dewey connections. The keywords’ spatial location on the screens represent the average of their Dewey subcategories’ usage. The keywords’ colors are also determined in this way, averaged according to their Dewey affiliations. The keywords are brought on stage beginning with the most used. Only those words that have 9 or more hits, and present in at least 2 Dewey subcategories are featured.

Engineering Production (Summer 2005)
Technical Design, Data Processing & Production: Rama Hoetzlein (with Mark Zifchock)

Research (2004-2005)
Web design, Data Analysis and Visual Research: Andreas Schlegel

Flow Wave Dewey Dots Dewey Icons

Preliminary System Design, Data and Visual Studies: August Black (pdf document)

Burst Mold    

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