big data | May 14, 2013

Discovery Through Data: Jer Thorp, A National Geographic Emerging Explorer

"Often my work stems from a question in my mind or an interesting data set," Jer Thorp, a big data speaker, tells National Geographic. "I look at it from as many conceptual and mathematical angles as I can, searching for a pattern. For me, it’s a visual way of analyzing a problem. I think in code and build open source software that lets anyone get in the driver’s seat and explore." It is his unique approach to mining the mountains of data surrounding us that has put him at the forefront of discovery in his field, and why Thorp was recently chosen as one of National Geographic’s Emerging Explorers.

As outlined on the program's website, Emerging Explorers are "uniquely gifted and inspiring adventurers, scientists and innovators who are at the forefront of discovery, adventure and global problem-solving while still early in their careers." Further, they are "dynamic personalities who are making a significant contribution to world knowledge through exploration." Thorp certainly fits that description. He takes the data we constantly produce and consume every day and makes it human. He does so by translating numbers and figures into beautiful visual projections of the information directly impacting our lives. And, he helps us grasp a more cohesive understanding of the world around us through his unique exploration of data visualization. Sometimes, he presents correlations between data that we might not have even expected.

Thorp's revolutionary and award-winning software has been featured worldwide. He was formerly the Data Artist in Residence for The New York Times, and recently co-founded the Office for Creative Research (OCR). He treats data visualization as a process—not a product, that can be used as a tool to expand thinking on social issues. Whether he's working with the OCR, teaching at New York University, or giving an eye-opening keynote, Thorp explores the way that data reflects our humanity, and shows us the tremendous possibilities that exist when we discover how to effectively harness the data all around us.

Photo Credit: Thatcher Cook, Courtesy of National Geographic