Day 2 at Eyeo – Context, Fiction, and Imagination

Where else but Eyeo could you hear in a single day presentations that covered journalistic truth, science fiction as inspiration, the interaction of reality and imagination, and the building of public-facing art projects? All of that was available on Day 2 at the 2015 Eyeo Festival, and much more. Let’s take it in rough chronological order, starting at 10:30 AM and finishing up nearly 12 hours later (with a nice dinner break in between).

Making a return visit to Eyeo was New York Times data visualizer extraordinaire Amanda Cox with a presentation titled ‘Truer Than True’ in which she made a persuasive case for the need to project reality while still working within the bounds of journalistic ethics. As per usual, she had some terrific examples produced by the NYT graphics crew, arguably the best in the world.

Next up was Jesse Kriss from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, discoursing on the use of science fiction as inspiration for reality. Kriss presented some amazingly perceptive examples from the likes of Jules Verne and Ray Bradbury that managed to project the future decades or even centuries in advance. Confidently navigating the path from fiction to design reality is critical in producing advanced technology products.

Chris Sugrue shared a few of her projects that blur the line between art and reality, such as light bugs that appear to jump out of their screen environment onto viewers arms.

This was my third time seeing Ben Fry at Eyeo. Given my focus in the data visualization space, I’m always interested to see what Ben and his compatriots at Fathom have to offer. In 2013, the subject was an impressive project for Reuters on the power structure in Chinese politics, and this year he shared recent work for the Clinton Foundation on the global status of women. While this work wouldn’t rank among the flashiest at Eyeo, it nonetheless has enormous reach while also being quietly innovative and highly professional.

A busy day was followed by dinner and wine at Toast, my adoptive Minneapolis wine bar. Toast features a creative wine list composed of small producers from around the globe who are largely focused on organic production methods. A limited but wonderful collection of dishes are available to accompany the wines, including thin crust pizzas, olives, cured meats, artisinal cheeses, and my personal favorite, the burratas. My personal burrata choice has roasted beets, greens (spinach in this instance), balsamic vinegar, and fresh mozzarella, accompanied by outstanding bread of the baguette variety. This has become one of my favorite light dinners on the planet, which I shall attempt to re-create at home this summer.

From Toast, it was a short walk to Aria to catch the evening festivities. Sarah Hendren led off with a compelling ‘backward’ presentation, presenting her works and life in reverse chronological order to great effect. Her talk was both compelling and inspiring, injected with the sort of humanity one comes to expect at Eyeo. I’m not sure there’s another event where more people are willing to let their guard down, share their frailties and uncertainties, and give of themselves. In short, Hendren’s talk was the sort that makes Eyeo the great event it is.

Meejin Yoon had the unenviable task of following Sarah Hendren, as she immediately acknowledged. Not to worry, though, as Yoon delivered a compelling presentation of her own, sharing a number of her public facing projects. Foremost among these was her tribute to slain MIT police officer Sean Collier, where Yoon provided a glimpse into the detail behind the work.

One of the constants I have found over four years at Eyeo is the challenge of getting to sleep after having my brain filled with innovative, exciting ideas for an entire day. To deal with this challenge, I elected to stop at Foreign Legion, a bit of an old school wine bar roughly half way between Aria and my hotel. A nice little by the glass list allowed me to try two red wines (a Morgon and a Shiraz) at once, thanks to the available 3 ounce offerings. This provided a nice little diversion before dropping into bed with a day’s worth of Eyeo info to digest.

Wow! Another day at Eyeo, another day of mental and physical exhaustion, yet I find myself always looking forward to the next day.

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Ken Cherven is the Founder and Curator of the website. He loves to merge baseball data with all sorts of visualization methods - charts, network graphs, maps, etc. to provide greater insight into underlying data patterns. Ken also authors books about baseball and visualization, and loves to listen to jazz while drinking some wine, craft beer, or bourbon.