Review of the SEE#6 Conference

Once again, the good folks of Scholz & Volkmer under the direction of Michael Volkmer achieved to impress me with a well-organized and super inspirational conference. A great list of speakers that complemented each other well, a beautiful venue with space for over 900 happy participants and a sound program made this year’s see a great success.

The Speakers

Prof. Dr. Harald Welzer started the conference off with an truly enlightening talk about impact of humanity on the environment. He brought his points across in a clear and understandable way. It was a pleasure to listen to his strong opinion and clear view on the world of communication and behavior.

“Crises are limitations in function of the system we’re living in.” —Harald Welzer

Carlo Ratti introduced some of his recent projects with the SENSEable Lab of MIT. Two outstanding examples are Trash Track that was realized with the city of Seattle and LIVE Singapore. The latter employs real-time data captured by a vast system of communication devices, microcontrollers and sensors commonly found in our urban environment and mapping this information onto multi-dimensional maps of Singapore.

Alexander Lehmann talked us through the creation and publication process of his animated video Du bist Terrorist. He was very open with all the hurdles and issues he encountered due to the controversial nature of the content. The problems ranged from angry teachers to potential lawsuits.

Brendan Dawes not only showed some of his personal projects like the Doodlebuzz and the more recently published Whilst I Was Sleeping, but he also talked a lot about his way of working. Playing around, making mistakes and adding poetry to data are important parts in his work. He started off with this inspiring quote:

“I love people much more than machines, because they don’t make any sense.” —Brendan Dawes

Wesley Grubbs began his talk with an excellent case study where he applied the impact of visual communication to tell the story about drug production in Afghanistan. He showed a lot of his recent works like US Federal Contract Spending in 2009 vs. Agency Related Media Coverage and The Invisible City. He also talked openly about how these projects came together. His presentation was a real charm and filled with great quotes:

“You’ve got to put that stuff [visualizations] back to the local community, because that’s the glue that holds society together.” —Wesley Grubbs

Joshua Prince-Ramus, principle at REX and one of the most influential architects, showed a few of his projects like the Seattle Central Library and the Wyly Theatre. What I especially liked about his talk was the precision in which he presented his conceptual approach to design. He has a very clear focus on function, requirements, customer needs. He established a culture in his interdisciplinary team, to base design decisions on the constraints at hand: Issue → Position → Manifestation.

Justin Manor presented the work of the art and technology studio sosolimited, where he’s one of three founding partners. Prime Numerics is a real-time visualization of broadcast signal that analyzes the UK leaders debate for the parliamentary elections. Beside explaining the functionality and the different concepts of analysis that are implemented, he also talked about they managed the extensive live-installation.

The videos from the conference are freely available on the conference website.

The Location

By choosing the beautiful, 101 year old Lutherkirche the conference organizers were able to welcome over 900 people on the sunny saturday morning. The chancel provided the perfect space for the speeches and was a much appreciated alternative to conference centers and class rooms.

The Afterparty

Together with most of the speakers and the folks from Scholz & Volkmer we enjoyed a nice dinner before moving on to the official afterparty. This was an excellent opportunity to deepen the conversation with like-minded people and also to refresh our minds after a day full of information and inspiration.

The Workshop

After a good night sleep (maybe a bit early for some?), Andrew Vande Moere, Moritz Stefaner and myself held a workshop at the offices of Scholz & Volkmer. It was intended to be a platform to engage deeper and in a more personal way with the people and topics. We had the pleasure to be joined by the speakers Wesley Grubbs, Justin Manor and Alexander Lehmann.

In the morning we had an in-depth discussion about some of the most controversial topics of the conference. In an intimate round of around 50 people, we discussed the role of storytelling, campaigning and open data to impact people’s behavior with visualization.

The afternoon was divided in four short blocks where Wesley, Justin, Alexander, Moritz and we showed a glimpse into the way we work. The session was very informal and provided good opportunity for questions and conversations. I felt that all of the participants had a great time and took away some hints and tips. How to better warp up a weekend full of inspirational talks, forward-thinking conversations and technological shoptalk, then with an epic collection of pugs in costumes? Thanks to that, Justin!

The Conclusion

We were very happy with the outcome of the first iteration of the see+ workshop, listened to enlightening talks and had a blast hanging out with the friendly folks at see#6. Again, the concept of bringing together people from different backgrounds made for an excellent mixture. Thinking this concept even further, it is more than appropriate to include more female speakers in the program. There are such talented women out there working in this area and I would love to listen to their thoughts. With this in mind, we’re already looking forward to number 7!

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  • Anke Tröder

    As in 2010, the work in small groups was the icing on the cake. Thanx for all the work you guys put into this. Hope to see you again there next year, for more story, data, and poetry, and even more controversial discussions.

    • Benjamin Wiederkehr

      Thanks for your thoughts, Anke. It was a pleasure to be involved in this and meeting all of you.

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