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Dissertation Defense

Ben Fry:
Computational Information Design

Friday, April 9, 10:30 AM EST

Bartos Theatre [map]
Wiesner Building
20 Ames Street
Cambridge, MA

John Maeda
Associate Professor of Design and Computation
Muriel R. Cooper Career Development Professor of Media Arts and Sciences
MIT Media Laboratory
Thesis Advisor

David Altshuler
Asst Prof. of Genetics and Medicine
Massachusetts General Hospital
Harvard Medical School
Director, Medical and Population Genetics
Whitehead/MIT Center for Genome Research
Thesis Reader

Christopher Pullman
Vice President for Design
WGBH Boston
Thesis Reader

The ability to collect, store, and manage data is increasing quickly, but our ability to understand it remains constant. In an attempt to gain better understanding of data, fields such as information visualization, data mining, and graphic design are employed, each solving an isolated part of the specific problem, but failing in a broader sense: there are too many unsolved problems in the visualization of complex data. As a solution, this dissertation proposes that the individual fields be brought together as part of a singular process titled Computational Information Design.

This thesis first examines the individual pedagogies of design, information, and computation with a focus on how they support one another as parts of a combined methodology for the exploration, analysis, and representation of complex data. Next, in order to make the process accessible to a wider audience, a tool is introduced to simplify the computational process for beginners, and can be used as a sketching platform by more advanced users. Finally, a series of examples show how the methodology and tool can be used to address a range of data problems, in particular, the human genome.

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