Tag Archives: langauge

Processing Data Visualizations

closeup of CPU chip

I’ve seen a lot of interesting data visualizations lately but have struggled to figure out how to visualize my own data.  It seems like there is a vast chasm between creating pie charts in Excel and Hans Rosling’s TED Talks.  The I stumbled upon Processing.

Processing was used to create the genetics simulation I described in an earlier post.  After looking into it some more, I learned that Processing was developed out of a project at MIT’s Media Lab.  It is an object-oriented programming language conceived as a way to sketch out images, animations and interactions with the user.

Examples of of Processing projects include everything from a New York Times data visualization of how articles move through the internet and visually representing data in an annual report to more esoteric and artistic works.

To get started, download the application at http://processing.org and go through some of the tutorials on the site.  There are lots of examples included with the download so you can also open them up and start tweaking and hacking them, if that’s your preferred method of learning.  Once your code is complete, or after you’ve made a minor tweak, click on the play button to open a new window and see it looks.  Once you’ve completed your project, you can export it as an applet, which can be uploaded to a web server, or as an executable file for a Mac, Windows, or Linux computer.

I’ve been through the first half-dozen tutorials and am to the point of making lines and circles dance around.  I can even make the colors and sizes vary based on mouse position.  I have also opened up some of the more advanced examples and started picking away at them to see what I can understand and what I still need to learn more about.  Once I can import data from an external source, it will be really exciting to see the different ways to represent it.

I haven’t had a foreign language learning experience in a while.  I am learning (and re-learning) many valuable lessons as I try to express myself in this new language.  Not surprisingly, I’m finding that I need a balance between instruction (going through the tutorials) and practice / play (experimenting with the code I’m writing or hacking together).  I’m also a bit frustrated by my progress because I can see what can be done by fluent speakers (see examples, above) but am stuck making short, choppy utterances (see my circles and lines, which really aren’t worth sharing.)  I plan to both work my way through the basics (L+1) as well as dabble with some more advanced projects (L+10) to see if I can pull them off.  If not, I’ll know what to learn next.

Fortunately, I have one or two friends who are also learning Processing at the same time.  They are more advanced than me (in programming languages, but I hold the advantage in human languages), but it has been helpful and fun to bounce examples and ideas off of one another.  We plan to begin a wiki to document our progress and questions as they arise — a little like a students notebook where vocabulary and idioms are jotted down so they can be reviewed later.

Watch for more updates as projects get pulled together as well as notes on other ways to visualized data in the near future.

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Mobile / Gaming Resources

rubic's cube

Where to begin?

As you can probably tell from my recent flurry of posts, I’ve gotten a lot out of coming to CALICO.  This is a great conference with great people.  Everyone is extremely approachable even though their expertise usually seems intimidatingly beyond mine.  I wanted to share some of the gaming resources I’ve come across during this conference, some of which have begun to answer the questions I have been asking over the last couple of days.

10 Key Principles for Designing Video Games for Foreign Language Learning by Ravi Purushotma, Steven L. Thorne, and Julian Wheatley.  I’ve heard Steve speak a couple of times and have gotten a change to get to know him.  He’s a real Renaissance man in that he pulls together research from pretty diverse fields in ways that can inform each (and then is as engaging a speaker as a “monkey on crack” — his description, which I only use in the most positive and appreciative sense.)  There is some great guidance in this paper, which is grounded in SLA theory.

What might mobile media afford education? by David Gagnon.  A nice look at some possible uses for mobile learning including everything from repackaging existing content to mobile data collection and augmented reality.  At first glance it seems very futuristic and cutting edge (which it is) but much of it is already being developed.  The future is now.

Spoil-sports Save the Day on Wise Gaming.org.  Spoil-sports are defined as those that intentionally disrupt the game by ignoring the rules of the game.  There is some really thought-provoking information on the importance of rules, but also on the necessity of breaking them, both in games and in life.

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