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Creative of the Week – Alexander Chen

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3 February 2011

Data visualisation is all the rage. But interaction-designer-slash-musician Alexander Chen adds a level of beauty that resonates.

Conductor is a piece that turns the NYC subway lines into a musical instrument. Using the MTA’s public API, Chen checks for trains leaving the station and then creates a moving map of the subway system.

That it in itself is pretty gorgeous to look at, but what makes Conductor so interesting is its use of audio. Every time 2 lines cross, it triggers a string sound. So it’s not just about the visualisation of data, but also about the sonification (yep, that’s an existing phrase).

What makes this work stand out is that it doesn’t become a slave of the data. It begins in real-time but then goes through an accelerated loop (which I guess is predicted). So rather than stick to the numbers rigourously, Chen uses it as a starting point and combines real-time data with creativity; he bends the rules to fit the sounds or the visuals.

The work uses HTML5, Javacsript and some Flash for the audio, so you won’t get the full experience on your iDevices. Read more about the how and what in his blogpost.

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  • Posted by Tom
    February 3, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Hi – Your link link is going to mtv.me instead of mta.me.

  • Posted by Gerrie Smits
    February 3, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Damn! That’s a Freudian slip (I used to work at MTV).
    But thanks a lot for pointing that out. It’s been fixed.

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