Review of the SEE#8 Conference

For this year’s SEE#8 Conference we headed off to Wiesbaden’s Schlachthof where the annual event would take place. The conference with its approximately 900 participants had a lineup of 8 speakers worth getting excited about.

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The Speakers

The conference was opened by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich who shared an insightful analysis of consumer behavior and media philosophy.

The second speaker up was Pablo Vio, Creative Director at Jam3, a visualization agency based in Toronto. His team is the one behind the interactive documentary Bear71 which serves as a good example of powerful visual storytelling. His talk centered around their design and development process and how building their own tools helps them to advance the creative range of their projects.

“Step out of photoshop: visualize data with Code.”- Pablo Vio

Klaus Obermaier is an Austrian choreographer with a strong interest in interactive projections and how it can be used in dance performances. It was interesting to see how simple projections can transform the overall experience and performance.

One of the topics discussing the future of consumer products was Jeroen Junte, a Dutch design critic and author. In his presentation he showed the audience how the 3D-printing wave will eventually result in a new industrial revolution. I really enjoyed the example with the Solar powered 3D-printer.

“We are looking into a bright future, so bright we need to wear shades.” – Jeroen Junte

Dries Verbruggen is a Flemisch designer and co-founder of the design studio Unfold. Like the previous speaker, his talk was about 3D printing, where he shared his vision of production on-the-go becoming accessible for everyday consumers. This vision was shown as a project called Kiosk 2.0 where a mobile 3D printing services would allow anyone to quickly produce customized items for daily use. Very interesting and provocative approach to a very fascinating topic.

“Design has to be meaningful to make it personal”- Dries Verbruggen

Creating amazing everyday experiences using digital installations is something that was strongly conveyed in Daan Roosegaard’s presentation. What was especially interesting was his way of inviting new materials and technologies when creating smart and aesthetic installations in urban areas. His way of collaborating as an open minded designer together with municipal decision makers was very inspiring and proves that with a strong vision and the necessary influence, anything seems possible.

Antony Turner is the CEO and founder of Carbon Visuals, an agency focused on visualizing carbon emissions in natural habitats. The challenge of spreading emission awareness, or what Turner calls “carbon literacy” is in many cases the lack of concrete consequences to point at when explaining the effect of carbon emissions.

An interesting collection of work were presented by Catalog Tree when describing projects they have been involved in during the last years. It was nice to hear about the variety of work they have been working on, one of them being their interactive documentary about algorithmic trading and accelerated stock markets called “Money&Speed”.

The Dinner

To extend the discussion and to reflect on the conference, the team at Interactive Things organized a dinner on Saturday at the Spital in the center of Wiesbaden. Around 50 guests, including speakers, organizers, and visualization enthusiasts joined in. Besides the great food, the tables were filled with interesting discussions that eventually continued until the late hours at Kulturpalast.

The Workshop

As the tradition goes, the SEE+ Workshop was organized the next morning in the studio of Scholz & Volkmer, where speakers and conference audience get together to discuss the topics that got stuck in our minds from the day before. As in previous years, the moderators were Moritz Stefaner, Andrew Vande Moere, and Benjamin Wiederkehr. Speakers participating this year were Antony Turner from Carbon Visuals, Nina Bender and Joris Maltha from Catalogtree, Pablo Vio from Jam 3 and Klaus Obermaier. The questions discussed centered around the intent behind the creatives’ work and the potential impact they believe to have on society. With a very informal agenda, this was a great opportunity to meet and chat with like-minded people and to learn a thing or two from the pros.

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Conclusion

One of the core topics for this year was the use of tools. A lot of designers nowadays write their own software to create design solutions that go way beyond Photoshop or Illustrator. One particularly great analogy came from Dries about the Japanese sword smiths, who are required to master the skill of building the tools used for sword making first, before they actually can use them to make swords.

The selection of this years presenters yielded a very broad range of topics and felt only loosely related to information visualization. Considering that see claims to be «the conference on visualization of information», it was surprising to see how little the topic was brought up and discussed among the speakers. Don’t get us wrong, we highly enjoyed the inspirational breadth of visual work presented, just the focus felt not as strong as in previous years.

Lastly, we’d like to mention something that has been brought up before here and elsewhere, which is the lack of female speakers. We as a community need to work harder to achieve an equal balance between male and female speakers. Because, when looking at the field of practitioners, the gender proportion seem actually very well balanced.

Overall, the organizers did an excellent job of creating a space where so many professionals and starting-out practitioners have the possibility to share thoughts and get inspired from one another. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly and the event well organized. Looking forward to what next year’s conference will offer!

This article was co-written by Martina Frantzén and Benjamin Wiederkehr.

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