INDE601 – Homework 1


Each student individually needs to complete and demonstrate the following for the next  class (via blog):

  • An annotated bibliography of three books related to one or more selected top three subjects  (reference the books using the Harvard system).
  • Identify three start-up projects/companies that closely resemble your idea(s), and provide a  description with a pros and cons analysis (each description to be around 250 words +/-  10%). You may include pictures, videos, or diagrams if you want.
  • Identify 3-5 web-related technologies/frameworks that you are most likely going to be  using in this project. Explain WHY you believe these technologies are  relevant/necessary for your development (80-100 words per technology/framework).


  • Environmental Sensing
  • Art Installations
  • Open Data

Project Idea

Mobile app/hardware that communicates with backend website. App sends geolocation/environmental/sentiment data back to website and this is displayed as an interactive visualisation.

Project Example:

  • Montage/’Time Machine’: website gathers and combines geotagged photos from geolocation of app users and displays these as a creative visualisation. Possibly add ability to display photos from the users’ locations but from different time periods (time machine). Incorporate environmental data/historical data.

Possible Group Composition

I have already had some initial discussions and expressions of interest in the project concept with Simon Jarvis and Georgia Day. Although I have not previously worked with either Georgia or Simon, I believe this group composition could be advantageous: Georgia has a strong interest in environmental issues and has experience in front-end web development as well as fabricating practical IoT installations. Simon has excellent design and front/back-end coding skills and has an interest in open data. I am interested in data visualisation (particularly data from, or generated by, the environment). I hope to bring some conceptual ideas, competent back-end coding, design, and practical hardware skills to the mix.

Annotated Bibliography

Information is Beautiful

McCandless, D. (2012) Information is Beautiful. London: Collins Publishers.

David McCandless is a British data-journalist, and information designer based in London (‘David McCandless’, 2018). Through his book, McCandless transforms the daily barrage of information and data that is presented to us  into beautiful, meaningful, readable visualisations. From the US film industry, to the spread of Ebola, McCandless has transformed complex and unwieldy statistics into elegant and digestible infographics and visualisations.

Interactive Data Visualization for the Web

Murray, S. (2017) Interactive Data Visualization for the Web. Sebastapol, CA: O’Reilly Media Inc.

Murray provides hands-on guidance for producing data visualisations for the web using the D3 Javascript library. There are chapters on geomapping and interactivity which could prove particularly useful for project work. There are some inspiring case studies with links to some impressive and insightful visualisations created using D3.

Building the Web of Things

Guinard, D., Trifa, V (2016) Building the Web of Things. Shelter Island, NY: Manning Publications.

Building the Web of Things is a practical guide to creating IoT projects and solutions through the use of web technologies. This could be an ideal read for group members as it includes, amongst many other things,  coverage of Node.js and returning sensor data via JSON.

Additionally, hardware (Raspberry Pi) web protocols and accessing APIs are covered.

Start-Up Projects/Companies

Wind Map

Wind data

“An invisible, ancient source of energy surrounds us—energy that powered the first explorations of the world, and that may be a key to the future. This map shows you the delicate tracery of wind flowing over the US” (Viégas, F & Wattenberg, M (no date).

These wind maps display animated visualisations of wind speed data for the United States. There is a live wind map as well as maps displaying historical periods of note, such as hurricanes.

Wind map detail

Animated wind maps are a compelling way to represent a mass of complex meteorological data in a way that is both easy to digest and that also gives a pleasing  visualisation that you can just sit and watch as the weather unfolds. Users can zoom in on areas of the map and the visualisation scales accordingly. This provides some great views of the flowing animations.

A more complete range of maps that included other geographical areas would have been useful. Whilst the animated maps are attractive, they are also monochrome. Use of colour to denote different wind speeds might be an enhancement. Some other improvements might be an updated time display to give some context to the data rather than just a single static date.

every thing every time

every thing every time, an artwork by Naho Matsuda, takes information from our interactions within a city to tell a new story about its citizens and daily life. As people interact with the city, a poem is generated, made anonymous and resonated across several locations, from a garden centre to a public library; a university square to a city laboratory” (FutureEverything, no date).

I found every thing every time  an intriguing use of publicly available data and open APIs. The piece abstracts the functions of the smart city and produces an anonymous poem which is displayed via flip-dot displays in locations across the city. The work distills the interaction of the inhabitants of the city via cinema listings, transport schedules, air quality data, etc., lending the generated text an almost mundane yet compelling tone. I can imaging people watching the displays to see what the next line will be, or wondering if what is written is about them. I particularly liked the way that Naho Matsuda used flip-dot displays because they make a sound when they are operating so that you can ‘hear’ the data.

Some of the lines of the poem generated:

  • “The car turns right”
  • “There is no party tonight”
  • “Someone answers their phone”
  • “Nobody is going to yoga”

Indirect Flights

Indirect Flights

“Indirect Flights … is a sprawling landscape of layered images. Raw materials, satellite images, organic textures, brush strokes and architectural fragments are all blended together into a dense panorama extending in all directions. As you pan across the terrain like Google Maps the layers move at different speeds giving the illusion of depth, constantly changing what is hidden and exposed” (Joe Hamilton, no date).

With its minimal interface, Indirect Flights invites you to explore the collage of imagery that presents a bird’s-eye view of landscapes, combined with building superstructures, fences, girders and the like. There is a real feeling of depth and exploration as your scroll through a seemingly random array of images and it’s very tempting to see keep scrolling to see what is just off the screen.

Having spent some time exploring Indirect Flights, the selection of images repeats after a reasonably short time of scrolling in the same direction. I would have liked to have seen a greater number of images and, perhaps, more variation in the subject matter, such as night-time landscapes and satellite imagery.

Indirect Flights has accompanying sound compositions which, along with projection of the images, would, I believe, greatly enhance the experience of interacting with this piece of art; it is playful but limited on a small screen device.

Web Technologies


“MongoDB is a free and open-source cross-platform document-oriented database program. Classified as a NoSQL database program, MongoDB uses JSON-like documents with schemata” (‘MongoDB’, 2018).

MongoDB’s NoSQL architecture is useful for Internet of Things projects because the data from sensors which are commonly used in IoT projects is not received in a structured way.  This project will potentially make use of unstructured data, such as that received from environment sensors. As an open source database solution, MongoDB is perfect for non-commercial projects and it also plays well as part of the MEAN stack for web deployment.

“Organizations are using MongoDB for IoT because it lets them store any kind of data, analyze it in real time, and change the schema as they go” (MongoDB, no date)


“D3.js is a JavaScript library for manipulating documents based on data. D3 helps you bring data to life using HTML, SVG, and CSS. D3’s emphasis on web standards gives you the full capabilities of modern browsers without tying yourself to a proprietary framework, combining powerful visualization components and a data-driven approach to DOM manipulation” (D3.js, no date).

D3.js could be a good choice for a project where the visualisation of data is required. As a JavaScript library, D3.js can be leveraged to display data in a huge variety of formats and display it via a web page. As open-source software, any functionality not provided as part of the D3.js core may be available via the community as a plug in e.g. D3 Tile plug-in for managing bitmapped images.


“PhoneGap is the open source framework that gets you building amazing mobile apps using web technology” (Adobe PhoneGap, no date).

This project is intended to be collect data from users via a  mobile app/sensors. PhoneGap is software that I am familiar with, having developed a mobile app for Android during the second year of my degree. Through the use of web development technologies, PhoneGap allows rapid development and easy deployment of cross-platform mobile applications. However, it also allows access to native device functionality, such as GPS, camera, and accelerometer, which will be required for the geolocation aspect of this proposed project.


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