Indexical Design Conference

Symposium curated at Northeastern University.

Indexical Design addresses the difference between data and evidence. The symposium explores the physical trace and its role for making sense of the world. We will investigate the different scientific, aesthetic, and rhetoric techniques for making traces “speak.”

Information visualization is traditionally concerned with the symbolic languages of charts, maps, and diagrams. Its underlying data are also symbolic representations: the results of processes encoding traces and events. At the same time, traces such as tree rings, fingerprints, or ice core samples are also visualizations that we can directly experience.

Traces, like data, are often assumed as being “given,” but again, like data, they are revealed through measurement. How we perceive traces is a result of how we frame them. The symposium proposes “Indexical Design” as a new paradigm for data visualization that is specifically relevant for fields that deal with traces, markers, and indices; fields such as microbiology, forensics, or citizen science. We will bring together experts from these and other fields to investigate the physical manifestations of information and discuss the role of design in framing how these traces speak to us.
Slides from my opening remarks

Graphic design: Pedro Cruz, Tom Starr

Photo May 27, 3 47 43 PM
Conference program with built-in Cyanometer, a device for measuring the blueness of the sky. Designed by Pedro Cruz and Tom Starr

Dep. Art+Design: Judy Ulman, Zohreh Firouzabadian, Chris Franson, Alison Kelly, Doug Scott, Ann McDonald, Kristian Kloeckl, Tom Starr, Nathan Felde
Northeastern Center for the Arts: Bree Edwards, Tom Vannatter, Terri Evans, Daniel Lim
Student volunteers: Aldo Viramontes, Armin Akhavan, Lia Petronio, Navarjun Grewal, Ryan Morrill, Andrew Tang, Kim McDevitt, Jinni Luo, Irene De La Torre, Jessie Richards, Maaria Assami
Special thanks to Mary Sherman

With generous support by
Goethe Institute: Christoph Mücher, Annette Klein
Swissnex: Cecile Vulliemin, Arthur Emery