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How Artist Jer Thorp is Humanizing Data
The Information | July 10, 2012

How Artist Jer Thorp is Humanizing Data

The Lavin Agency would like to welcome our newest speaker, Jer Thorp, who holds one of the world’s coolest jobs: Data Artist-in-Residence at The New York Times. Thorp’s work focuses on humanizing data—on turning data into narratives and stories—by creating striking graphic representations. He turns raw, unwieldy numbers into actionable information for companies and people who are hoping to better understand user, client, and customer behaviors. By visualizing this data, we can take the important first steps in controlling the glut of information that surrounds us. Here’s Thorp, from his recent TEDx talk:

By placing data into a human context, it gains meaning, and I think this is tremendously, tremendously, important. Because these are our histories that are being stored on these devices. First of all what we do with our own data is get a better understanding of the type of information that we're sharing. But if we can do this with other data I think we can change a lot of things, because it automatically builds empathy for the people involved in these systems. And that, in turn, results in a fundamental respect which I believe is missing in a large part of technology.

Whether he's designing the 9/11 Memorial to group the names of victims by communal relationships, or mapping the way we share digital content through his "Cascade" project at The New York Times, Jer Thorp mixes the worlds of science, art, and design to rethink the way we use digital technology. In his keynotes, Thorp shows us that data doesn't have to be obscure or threatening. It can instead be used to tell human stories, and it can help us delve into the complex social realities of the 21st century.
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