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Every AlgoRiThm has ART in it: Treemap Art Project

October 16, 2014 - April 10, 2015

Keck Center, 500 Fifth St., N.W.

Viewable by appointment only. Email aquinn@nas.edu to make an appointment.

This exhibition features 12 works by National Academy of Engineering member and University of Maryland professor Ben Shneiderman. Shneiderman, a renowned data visualization expert, pioneered the treemap technique in the early 1990s. Treemaps are used to organize and visualize hierarchical (tree-structured) data as a set of nested rectangles. In this exhibition, he has stripped the text from his treemaps, allowing viewers to consider their aesthetic properties. The featured treemaps are based on data from a range of topics including global population, popular music, carbon emissions, economic growth, popular TED talks, airport activity, and basketball data.

Shneiderman writes, "Although I conceived treemaps for purely functional purposes (understanding the allocation of space on a hard drive), I was always aware that there were aesthetic choices in making appealing treemaps, such as design, color, aspect ratio, and the prominence of borders for each region, each hierarchy level, and the surrounding box. In addition, certain treemaps are inherently interesting because of the data displayed or patterns revealed." Shneiderman's artistic influences include the Op art (optical art) movement of the 1960s, as well as the work of Piet Mondrian, Josef Albers, Mark Rothko, Paul Klee, Kenneth Noland, Barnett Newman, and Hans Hofmann.

Download a PDF of the exhibition catalog with essays by Ben Shneiderman, Manuel Lima, and JD Talasek. A hard copy of the catalog is available upon request.

Related Event: Attend a D.C. Art Science Evening Rendezvous exploring technology and creativity on October 16 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. (doors open at 5:30 p.m.) at the Keck Center, 500 Fifth St., N.W. Shneiderman will lead gallery tours before and after the DASER, at 5:30 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.

This exhibition is organized by Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences with support provided by the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. Additional support provided by the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies.

Since its founding in 1964 the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) has been a national voice for engineering and worked to advance the well-being of society. It pursues these goals by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and marshalling the expertise and insights of eminent engineers to provide independent advice to the nation on matters involving engineering and technology. In commemoration of its 50th Anniversary, the NAE is celebrating engineering contributions to human welfare and the needs of society.

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