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What is the Eco-Vis Challenge? Not only is there an environmental crisis, but an environmental data crisis. Viewing statistics on environmental change is usually overwhelming, unintelligible, hidden and dense. Eyebeam invited artists to collaborate with technologists to redefine what the future of tracking and visualizing the environment could be.
In September 2007, Eyebeam launched the Eco-Vis Challenge, a two-part juried competition to raise environmental awareness through creative data visualization projects. Competition entry opened on Saturday, September 15, in conjunction with an Eyebeam panel discussion on information graphics and social change, as part of the annual Conflux Festival in Brooklyn.
For the panel, artists Michael Mandiberg, Brooke Singer and Eve Mosher joined Eyebeam Executive Director Amanda McDonald Crowley and Tiffany Holmes, Associate Professor of Art and Technology Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, to discuss issues ranging from charting energy consumption and carbon emission levels, to communicating air and water quality in clear and compelling ways.
Students and professionals from diverse fields and backgrounds - artists, scientists, designers, computer programmers, architects and engineers - took part in the competition. Winning projects were awarded cash prizes and were included in FEEDBACK, Eyebeam’s exhibition focusing on environmental and sustainability issues.
The juried competition was subdivided into two categories: Eco-Vis Challenge #1: Eco-Icons and Eco-Vis Challenge #2: Eco-Visualization. For Challenge #1, participants were asked to create graphics and/or icons that could be used to symbolize or otherwise communicate environmental concerns. Thematically, these icons were expected to engage the politics of information and the persuasion of graphics.
Challenge #2 was to create an eco-visualization based on at least one set of ecological impact data. Projects employing unconventional means data-representation, such as social sculpture, were welcome alongside more traditional forms of data visualization, such as charts and graphs.
On November 8, 2007, Eyebeam hosted a public critique for the Eco-Vis Challenge submissions as part of the Upgrade! series of public programming. A distinguished panel of New York-based artists and designers discussed what role an art and technology center can play in raising public awareness on environmental issues, and how visualizing environmental data can address the crisis. The guest critics not only dicussed their criteria for a useful, engaging, and successful visualization project, but were available to give in-depth FEEDBACK to the Eco-Vis Challenge participants. Panelists included: Michael Mandiberg, Natalie Jeremijemko, Zach Lieberman, and Upgrade! member Mushon Zer-Aviv.
At a public reception at Eyebeam Saturday, December 15, 2007, Executive Director Amanda McDonald Crowley announced the winners of the Eco-Vis Challenge. Oz Etzioni’s Unrecyclable Icon was awarded a $2000 grand prize in the Eco-Icons category, and the Studio for Urban Projects’ In Popular Terms, the Evolving Language of Ecology was awarded a $2000 grand prize in the Eco-Visualization category.
Two proposals in each category received Honorable Mentions and prize money of $150 each, also earmarked for realization of the projects in conjunction with the FEEDBACK exhibition. For Eco-Icons, Green Map was recognized for “creating a comprehensive and inspiring visual system and vocabulary,” and Forays’ project Edible Excess for “the practical application and smart design of an Eco-Icon.” In the Eco-Visualization category, Annina Rüst’s e-RiceCooker was named “a wonderful and novel concept for social conviviality and structured participation,” and Timm Kekeritz’s Virtual Water and Water Footprints project was recognized for its “clarity, visual literacy and fluency of design.”
The Eco-Vis Challenge solicited proposals on increasing environmental awareness through creative data interpretation over the course of a four-month period in Fall 2007, and the winners were chosen from a field of 139 proposals. The competition was juried by engineer and techno-artist Natalie Jeremijenko, mathematician Martin Wattenberg, a researcher at IBM whose work focuses on visual explorations of culturally significant data, Joey Roth, an industrial designer and writer for TreeHugger.com, Casey Caplowe, creative director of GOOD Magazine, Elizabeth Thompson, executive director of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, Eyebeam Alums Michael Mandiberg, and Brooke Singer, with Eyebeam’s Amanda McDonald Crowley and Paul Amitai moderating.
The winning and honored proposals were on display at Eyebeam in January 2008 as a preview for the March 13 – April 19 FEEDBACK exhibition, which featured the realized proposals alongside work by past and current Eyebeam artists, with others. Both events were part of Eyebeam’s ongoing Beyond Light Bulbs programming series, which grew from the conversations and findings of Eyebeam’s Sustainability Research Group. The Eco-Vis Challenge was conceived by Eyebeam program and events coordinator Paul Amitai and crafted by Research Group members Michael Mandiberg a 2007-08 Fellow in the R&D OpenLab and Brooke Singer, an Eyebeam alum.
The Eyebeam Sustainability Research Group began in July 2006 as a forum for past and present residents, fellows, and staff to engage in a critical dialogue about environmental sustainability. The group’s monthly meetings have covered a range of issues, from sharing creative research to working on practical ways to “green” the Eyebeam facility. Out of these meetings, a number of public programs and exhibitions have been developed, including the Eco-Vis Design Challenge, the upcoming Eyebeam exhibition FEEDBACK, and the ambitious 2007-8 program series, Beyond Light Bulbs. Among the Sustainability Research Group ReBloggers were: Jennifer Broutin, Carmen Trudell, Brooke Singer, Paul Amitai, Leah Gauthier, Michael Mandiberg and Amanda McDonald Crowley, who have all been contributing content to Eyebeam’s ReBlog website. This content, as well as the online eco-vis projects of Ben Engebreth, Brooke Singer and Michael Mandiberg were on display alongside those of Challenge winners.
Prizes were generously underwritten by Deep Green Living, green consultants for home and business.
Eco-Vis Challenge Finalists
Anthony Cesari - Warning Stickers
Solar One - I <heart> PV
Igo Knezevic - Hazardous Climate logo
Evan Moran - series of eco stickers
Nathan Shedroff - Reveal: A rating system for consumers
Grace Tsai - To Be-Recycle
Lee Winfield - Clothing labels with production locations
DreamAddictive Labs - Atmopspheric Pollution data vis of anthropogenic contaminants
Earth Pledge and HydroQual - Green Roof Stormwater Simulation Tool
LoVid and Douglas Repetto - Bonding Energy: Electrogeography and data vis around NY state
Erin Williams - Energy Production and Loss
Kiera Ormut-Fleishman - Maintenant: An i-Pod-powered air pollution reader
Marilyn Ostergren - Environmental impact of electricity consumption at U. of Washington
Bart Woodstrup - The Hottest Year on Record: Data from Global Mean Temperature Anomalies
Related Programs 2008
January 5 – 26 Eco-Vis Challenge Preview
January 26, 4-6PM Sustainable Project Review and Closing Reception
March 13 – April 26 FEEDBACK Exhibition
Photos of Eco-Vis Challenge winners.