VC Book available for pre-order

Posted: January 26th, 2011 | Author: Manuel Lima | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

It’s been more than a year since I started this long exciting journey, 17 months to be precise, and I’m very happy to announce today that the book is finally available for pre-order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones (amongst others). With a foreword by Lev Manovich, VisualComplexity: Mapping Patterns of Information is a deep dive into two major disciplines that witnessed a meteoric rise in the last decade: network science and information visualization.

The book is far more than a showcase of VisualComplexity.com. In fact, around one third of the estimated 300 featured images have never been showcased on the website. Due to its broader scope, it does actually seem that the website emerged from the book, other than the other way around. The book yields a comprehensive view on the visual representation of networks, delving into historical precedents (with some beautiful medieval imagery), various contemporary subjects and methods, and a range of future prospects. It looks at the depiction of networks from a practical and functional perspective, as a key driver for understanding the complex connectedness of modern society, but also explores the alluring qualities of the network schema, responsible for a considerable shift in contemporary art and culture. Divided in 7 chapters the book is ultimately a testimony to the enthralling power of networks and visualization.

In July 2009 while still working for Nokia I signed a contract with Princeton Architectural Press, for what would be one of the most challenging experiences of my life. I was immediately concerned with the deadline ahead of me, since I knew how much needed to be done. On Saturday, July 25, when riding the train back home from TEDGlobal in Oxford, UK, and after being inspired by every single person and story in that conference, I quickly decided the only possible way I could accomplish the book was to embrace it full-time. The following Monday I communicated my decision to Nokia and in late-August I left the company.

What followed were months of hard, intense work, countless hours, more than 1200 emails, and many ups and downs. I had an idea it wouldn’t be that easy, but I never expected it to be so hard. I guess it doesn’t help when you’re too meticulous, self-critical and demanding. A lot has changed in my life since then. I got married only a few months after, and more recently started a new job, moved to a different city in a different country. Coincidentally I’m now living a few blocks from Princeton Architectural Press, a publisher I came to care and respect like no other. The last couple of months have also been very rewarding, since you finally see all loose pieces of the book come together into a coherent whole with a unique personality.

There’s a lot more to say, and I promise I will keep posting more updates, interesting facts, page samples, final cover design, and related events in the coming months. But in the meantime, if you want to make sure you get the book as soon as it comes out in late summer, you can pre-order it on Amazon. Pre-orders are also a great way to support an author, since it shows advance interest in the book. You can also follow updates on Twitter or Facebook.


Radial Convergence

Posted: January 25th, 2011 | Author: Manuel Lima | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

When I first started grouping projects in VC by visual method, in June 2007, radial convergence was already the most popular group with roughly eight projects. You can see that early classification in a now-extinct page of VisualComplexity.com, back in the day of June 10, 2007 (thanks to WayBackMachine):

As you can see from the image above, those eight radial convergence projects were amongst the first to be indexed in VC. Interestingly enough, three of them, respectively AS Internet Graph (2002), GNOM (2005), and Circos (2005) are amongst my favorites to this day. Although I had started talking about this method in conferences like MeshForum (San Francisco) and reboot 9.0 (Copenhagen, Denmark) it remained nameless for a while. The label came out from a need to classify this and other layout types within the growing collection of projects. Since the model is essentially defined by a radial ordering of items converging with each other, the title radial convergence became an intuitive fit. However, it was hard to predict the method would take off as much as it did. Within the last three years it has become immensely popular, and it seems that with every batch of new projects added to VC there’s always one exhibiting this favored layout.

There are probably many reasons that can explain this popularity. First, it’s a simple execution. It’s probably one of the easiest and fastest ways to trial or visually convey a relational database. Second, it’s remarkably alluring. Humans have a widely known and documented obsession with the circle and many of its iconographic qualities that have been revered through millennia, such as divinity, perfection, unity, or closure. Third, if we add to the previous reasons the growing availability of data, number of visualization enthusiasts, and easy-to-use software, then we have the perfect conditions for growth, multiplication, and increasing popularity.

Currently there are 33 projects under radial convergence in VC, mapping a variety of subjects, from IP addresses to Facebook friends. Here’s a screenshot of all of them, as of January 24, 2011.