Stamen is a design and technology studio in San Francisco.

You are at Stamen's first blog, mostly written by Eric Rodenbeck. Visit our new blog! or come visit us at our newly designed stamen.com.

Contact Stamen, or follow us on Twitter

Recent blog posts

Jan 13, 2011

Walking Papers at the Art Institute of Chicago

Walking Papers, the project that lets you draw on a paper map and easily get the data into Open Street Map (and which Mike launched last year), is part of the Hyperlinks exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago You can read all about it at the Institute, but the gist of it is:

The Internet has undoubtedly transformed the world we live in; its unprecedented access to and layering of information lead to greater interaction and engagement, and a complex understanding of our place in the world. However, this innovative method of accumulating and remixing data is also occurring across the fields of architecture and design. A fluid exchange between these disciplines—fueled by advances in production processes, materials research, social and environmental concerns, and influences drawn from scientific and biological research—is resulting in new attitudes to architecture and design that are opening up these subject areas and stretching their range of influence.

We're grateful to Martha Pettit, who heroically curated our collection of hundreds of printouts into something museum-worthy, for all her hard work on the project. Also, Mike's added a multi-page "atlas" which is worth looking in to if you're interested in how the project is progressing. Thanks to Nate Kelso for the photos.

Dec 11, 2010

Cheerio Maps

Cheerio Maps is a view of housing data from http://www.ziprealty.com/ that we (and when I say we, I mean Aaron) visualized in early 2010. The maps look at how the sizes, prices and ages of houses vary across the San Francisco Bay Area, and uses circles of different sizes to denote greater and lesser values. In the first image below: Housing prices in San Francisco. Each dot is a house for sale, and the big green dot behind everything else is a mega-mansion in the Pacific Heights neighborhood.

View Project.

There are three things about the project:

Thing 1: Colors

The colors are arbitrary—unlike the maps on Trulia Hindsight, there's not a consistent linear scale that lets you say that blue or green dots are pricier or older or smaller. This makes it easier to differentiate between dots that similar, but not identical, values. (It also looks really strange and cool). All dots that are (about) the same size have the same color, though. So all of the bluish dots in the image below are about the same price as one another, and the same goes for the pink ones. The fact that they're all mostly the same size means that this is a fairly homogeneously priced part of the Bay:

1.gif

Whereas here, Piedmont (the larger dots in the upper right) clearly pop out as a neighborhood of pricey homes surrounded by less expensive properties:

5.gif

Thing 2: Constancy

The dots never change size; a 10 pixel wide dot will always be a 10 pixel wide dot, regardless of how far zoomed in you get. So the very large yellow dot in the center of each of the following 6 views (in Tiburon is always the same house, regardless of zoom level:

1.gif2.gif

3.gif4.gif

5.gif6.gif

What this gets us is, primarily, context. So for any given view, it's very apparent how varied the price (in this view) of homes are. In this case, at a local level, there's some variance (the yellow is twice the size of the purple) but the yellow is dominant for a while—until we zoom out to include San Francisco where the Green Giant overwhelms the scene (and speaks to the incredible variance in house prices in that city).

Thing 3: The Bigness

The dots are bigger than they'd normally be in a more traditionally-looking structure like Polymaps' k-means clustering or Protovis' circle packing. This is partially to take a good look at the incredible disparity in real estate prices in the Bay Area. A view like the image below, of prices in El Grenada (near Moss Beach and Half Moon Bay) shows a very expensive house right in the same neighborhood as a group of much more moderately-priced homes.

2.gif

Or the ways in which the mansions of Los Altos and [Stanford] ride hard against the cheaper homes of East Palo Alto:

3.gif

Those overlapping concentric circles, with multiple places for sale at a single address? Those are condominiums in downtown San Francisco; and the wider the range of colors and sizes, the more diverse (financially) a building you're looking at:

4.gif

And So

There's more; these views can be also sliced by age of the property and size, each of which allow for their own kinds of insights.

Enjoy!

Dec 8, 2010

Shadows Searching in the Knight

There's alot to talk about as we continue to move forward with Dotspotting. I'm going to try and blog a bit more frequently about it and describe individual aspects of the project, instead of waiting for a big long blog post that takes me all afternoon, and see how that goes.

Search

So yesterday I talked about basic uploading and the addition of new information to address-based dots in .csv files. Once those files are in a sheet, we've got basic search enabled for individual dots inside that sheet, and you can do a couple of different things there. Right now search is only enabled on a few fields: latitude and longitude. What this means is you can start to sort your dots in various ways based on location. It's all still super alpha-beta-disco-ball, of course, and very straightforward, but here's an example.

The map above is from a sheet of mine, called Cabspotting December 8 2010 - 3. I downloaded several cab tracks from the here and here and you can look at other ones I've made here.

The southernmost dot in that sheet is here, down at the airport, with a latitude of 37.614670, and the northernmost one is here, with a latitude of 37.806430, up near Fisherman's Wharf. I can search for these latitudes in the sheet, and it'll give me dots at those various degrees of north/south. It looks like this:

At 37.6, down near the airport:

At 37.7, coming up the peninsula and into the CIty:

And at 37.8, up in Russian Hill and Fisherman's Wharf:

The searches only work on latitude and longitude now, and we're talking about how to make it useful to search other fields as well. Aaron and I talked today about things like being able to generate a list of the neighborhoods that the taxi passed through, exporting the results of these searches, having unique URLs for each of these searches, and to be able to do searches like "show me all the dots further north than 37.717950." We'll get there. Part of the point of the project is for us to do this work in the open, so people can see how the process works and weigh in on what we do next. If you'd like to give us any feedback, we're going to try using the dotspotting twitter account to talk in public about the project.

OK, that's search. For now.

Dec 7, 2010

Working on the Knight Moves

Today we're announcing the public beta of Dotspotting, a project designed to help people work with geographic data in ways that are intelligible, straightforward and useful in the real world. You can sign up for an account or just take a peek around at http://dotspotting.stamen.com.

Dotspotting is the first project Stamen is releasing as part of Citytracking, a project funded by the Knight News Challenge (more here and here). It's being headed up by Stamen's own Aaron Cope with input from most of the rest of the team. We're making tools to help people gather data about cities and make that data more legible. Our hope is to do this in a way that's simple enough for regular people to get involved, but robust enough for real research to happen along the way.

The basic idea

There's currently a whole chain of elements involved in building digital civic infrastructure for the public, and these are represented by various Stamen projects and those of others. At the moment, the current hodgepodge of bits—including APIs and official sources, scraped websites, sometimes-reusable data formats and datasets, visualizations, embeddable widgets etc.—is fractured, overly technical and obscure, held in the knowledge base of a relatively small number of people, and requires considerable expertise to harness. That is, unless you're willing to use generic tools like Google Maps, and agree to terms of service which allow them to share your content with other people. We want to change this. Visualizing city data shouldn't be this hard, or this proprietary, or this generic.

So the first part of this project is to start from scratch, in a 'clean room' environment. We've started from a baseline that's really straightforward, tackling the simplest part: getting dots on maps, without legacy code or any baggage. Just that, to start. Dots on maps. And then we'll share that work with the public, and see what happens next.

The problem

But dots on maps implies a few other things: getting the locations, putting them on there, working with them, and—crucially—getting them out in a format that people can work with.

We've had several interactions with different city agencies so far, and while the situation has changed alot in the last few years, we've realized that, for the foreseeable future, people aren't going to stop using Word and Excel and Pages and Numbers to work with their data, or even stop using paper. It's made us think that if this stuff is really going to work out in the long run, we need to focus our thinking on projects that can consume as well as export things that cities and people actually use and use now, and not stick with projects that have to rely on fancy APIs or the latest database flavor.

It's great that San Francisco and New York are releasing structured XML data, but Oakland is still uploading Excel spreadsheets (it's actually awesome that they do), and the Tenderloin police lieutenants are printing out paper maps and hand-placing colored stickers on them. At some point, if this really is the way things are going, we're going to need to meet the needs of actual functioning city agencies—and while APIs are great and necessary, for now that means Excel spreadsheets and Word docs. It also means being able to easily read in data that people have uploaded to google maps, interface with SMS systems like those that Ushahidi are pioneering. And it means being able to export to things like PowerPoint and Keynote, scary as that may seem.

What we've launched with is the baseline work that's being done to make this stuff internet-native. There's a login and permissions system that pretty much works. Uploading .csv files full of dots works. Each dot has an HTML page of its own, for example, like they do on Crimespotting. Collections of dots (we're calling them sheets) work, and you can export them. And there are dots on maps.

Getting started

The first thing to do is to take a look at the site's FAQ, which has detailed instructions on how the whole thing fits together. Where we're at now is that you can upload comma-separated value files, or .csv files, containing geographic information, and dotspotting will try and put them on maps. You can write these files in any text editor, or export them directly from a spreadsheet program like Excel.

The first and simplest thing I could think of was to take the two locations that Stamen has had out studios, on opposite corners of the lovely 16th and Mission plaza. That csv file is here, and it looks like this:

address,description
"2017 Mission St San Francisco CA", HQ2
"3012 16th Street San Francisco California", HQ1

The top line (address,description) is the title line; it basically describes the lines that are to follow. So for every other line in the document, the first item will be considered an address, and the second item will be considered a description, separated by a comma ("comma-separated values," remember).

I uploaded the file here, and here's what I get as a result, on a map:

We're calling the resulting collection of maps that results from an upload a "sheet," partly because we think it'll make sense later on for people to think of these as spreadsheets or other documents, and partly because Aaron wants to use this image on the site:

Happy Teeth 6

What I also get, in addition to the map, are two html pages, one for each dot that's been created (there's a dot for every line in my original file). And those dots have significantly more information now than they did when they were uploaded: where previously there was just an address and a description, there's now a bunch of other stuff, like latitude and longitude of course, but also things like aWhere On Earth ID, or more simply "woeid," that tells me that these dots are in zip code 94110. So I'm getting a lat/long lookup as well as the addition of some other sample geographically-relevant information. And, crucially, I can export this data, which now looks like this:

id,sheet_id,user_id,perms,created,latitude,longitude,
    geohash,location,type,address,description,yahoo:woeid
77171,271,12,public,"2010-12-07 23:27:53",37.764673,-122.419621,
    9q8yy6bg0j63,woeid:12797161,,"2017 Mission St San Francisco CA",HQ2,12797161
77173,271,12,public,"2010-12-07 23:27:53",37.765042,-122.419930,
    9q8yy6bt2fh4,woeid:12797154,,"3012 16th Street San Francisco California",HQ1,12797154

More like that

There's more to talk about, but that'll do for a first post. As Aaron so nicely puts it, HEY LOOK! THIS IS THE SUPER ALPHA-BETA-DISCO-BALL VERSION ( tell me more ), and we're very much thinking of this as a first pass, with lots of missing pieces. Matt Mullenweg says that "if you’re not embarrassed when you ship your first version you waited too long" and there are worse people to listen to.

Whoosh! Off we go. We'd love it if you visit the project and let us know what you think.

Nov 30, 2010

Walking Papers Developments

Since Mike launched Walking Papers I've been fascinated with the aesthetic quality of the scans that people have been uploading. Last weekend, when he and Aaron were down at Camp Roberts working on the project, I asked him to make a change to the way that scans are displayed so that the maps are easier to look at as a group, and as visual & cultural artifacts. Cause, you know, lists are nice, but.

Turns out: he did it, and they're lovely! (and if you adjust the url parameters you can do things like look at 200 of them at a time, which is nice.)

For me so far the most interesting thing has been the ability to look at the project as a whole instead of as a set of discreet incidents. One day I'll get my wish of seeing them on a map, but for now, there are 4 categories - could you call them genres? - that leap out:

Full:

Scans that are just stuffed with notation. There's something about the obsessive filling in of blocks and gaps that grabs me & makes me think about the whole process that goes into the making of these, over time:

Some of these are dense enough that the authors have included keys in the margins so you can tell what the numbers refer to:

Collaged:

Some people've been taking other maps and using the project as a way not so much to annotate the printed-out maps as to easily drop existing maps into the Open Street Map coordinate space. I especially like the first map below, an historic map of the Congo:

And some have patched satellite imagery in, using them as base maps to (presumably) trace or otherwise use the imagery. Maybe these two are sub-genres:

Faxed:

These have been run through some kind of fax machine or scanner, and have all the artifacts of that technology intact:

Crumpled:

And visually the ones that leap out at me the most are those for which it's apparent that there's a piece of paper here, that someone's folded and crumpled and perhaps stuck a digital artifact that has some knowledge about where it is embedded in it in their pocket, and really used it:

The intent of the project is mostly about editing the maps and improving Open Street Map, of course—but there's also a kind of beauty going on here builds on top of that, that comes out of the raw material and allows space for someone's hand.

I used to describe my notebooks as being about taking a break from the smooth digital surfaces of Stamen's regular digital work by getting involved in the kinds of markings that hands make. Walking Papers takes this a bit further by providing a way for people to interact with the precision of digital maps by drawing on pieces of paper that know where they are, so to speak.

I still love taking polaroid pictures; there's something about the fact that this one object was *actually there* when the photos was taken that make it a very special kind of record. My journals often have lemon juice or coffee stains or dirt from a place rubbed into the pages for this same reason. When I look at the crumpled up pieces of paper that are scanned into Walking Papers, or the ones that have satellite images stitched into them, I'm reminded that maps are made, by people, in places, sometimes by hand. I really like that about the project. And there's a quotidian quality, an accidental beauty that comes from tapping in to a flow and letting it run and choosing the moments where the lovely is.

TenderMaps:

This is also probably the appropriate time to talk about TenderMaps, a project that Sha Hwang and Zain Memon (with help from Mike, and others) put together at the Great Urban Hack that happened around the same time at GAFFTA. They dreamt up the idea of telling stories about the neighborhood, got an instance of Working Papers up and running, interviewed people in the Tenderloin and got them to draw on maps, and built a lovely interface for it, all in 2 days. There's a certain kind of aliveness that I get out of feeling intimidated by smart young people, and these guys scare the crap out of me.

Hyperlinks:

This is also probably the appropriate time to talk about an art and design show we're participating in at the gracious invitation of Zoe Ryan, at the Art Institute of Chicago called Hyperlinks, which opens on December 12 in the main galleries there. From the Institute's announcement:

The Internet has undoubtedly transformed the world we live in; its unprecedented access to and layering of information lead to greater interaction and engagement, and a complex understanding of our place in the world. However, this innovative method of accumulating and remixing data is also occurring across the fields of architecture and design. A fluid exchange between these disciplines—fueled by advances in production processes, materials research, social and environmental concerns, and influences drawn from scientific and biological research—is resulting in new attitudes to architecture and design that are opening up these subject areas and stretching their range of influence.

With an eye to these inventive links between practices, this exhibition presents more than 30 projects that span from architecture and furniture to multimedia and conceptual design from an international group of architects and designers, including Florencia Pita/mod, Jurgen Mayer H., R&Sie(n), Experimental Jetset, Emergent/Tom Wiscombe, Arik Levy, Studio Makkink & Bey, Shigeru Ban, Joris Laarman, Nacho Carbonell, and Matali Crasset. Not always intended as ends in themselves, these multidisciplinary practices are often experiments that motivate reflection on the values, mores, and practices often overlooked in society. Projects such as Nacho Carbonell’s 2009 Lover’s Bench poetically explore private and public space, while the design studio Stamen’s 2010 social mapping project, Walkingpapers.org, provides a public forum for updating online information. Architect Keiichi Matsuda’s 2009 film Augmented (hyper)Reality: Domestic Robocop investigates the potential of environments enhanced by advanced technologies, and Troika’s 2010 Plant Facts Plant Fiction demonstrates the possible ecological benefit of natural and artificially generated species of plants. Hyperlinks also includes specially commissioned works such as inventive new furniture elements by architect Greg Lynn and a multimedia project by Simon Heijdens that attunes the ambience of an interior space to exterior climatic conditions.

Diverse in perspective and output, the works included in Hyperlinks make clear that by fostering rigorous cross-disciplinary relations, architects and designers are carving out new avenues for experimentation that are helping shape insightful solutions to urgent issues, ultimately enhancing the quality of our daily lives.

The show starts on December 11, and a few of us are heading out to see it, so if you're going to be in (brr) Chicago in mid-December, please get in touch. And there will be some educational events taking place around the project starting in January that I'll post more about as we know. Thanks to everyone who's participated in the project so far!

Nov 9, 2010

Prettymaps Paris

While I'm busy not blogging about the Great Urban Hack that I attended at GAFFTA in the Tenderloin this weekend, here's the latest on the prettymaps project: Paris.

And also:

Oct 25, 2010

Nike Grid: Using London's phone boxes as goal posts

As a matter of policy, Stamen generally don't work with advertising agencies. It's too hard to figure out what to do when you're not in direct conversation with the person holding the checkbook and able to make the final call, and there's too much silence involved. Usually you wind up having more conversations about what it's going to take to convince the client to release their data and making up for gaps in the material than you do working with interesting datasets and lovely visualizations, and that's something that seems to be endemic to the whole process of advertising.

Ben Terret, who works with Really Interesting Group, Newspaper Club and Weiden + Kennedy London, convinced me otherwise over a martini or three at the Rite Spot, and I'm proud to say that our resulting collaboration on the Nike Grid project is live as of this weekend.

View Project

There's a thread running straight from Newspaper Club to this project. We've got all this marvelous infrastructure—newspaper printing presses and everything that goes along with that, like delivery trucks, ink distribution systems and pre-press services in the one example, and phone boxes, land lines running underneath the streets and advertising services on the booths on the other—and we're not really using it anymore. Newspaper presses are falling into disuse, and apparently British Telecom don't even bother to repair broken phone boxes anymore. My working life started in earnest when I was a bicycle messenger in New York in the late 1980s, and all of that business was done over beepers and the phone booths of Manhattan, so I've never really quite gotten over this idea that there'll come a time when there simply aren't any public phone booths on the streets. But it's clearly on the horizon, as is the death of the physical newspaper. So the idea of doing something with all this infrastructure while it's still around is really appealing to me, and I continue to be impressed with the guys at RIG for bringing these kinds of issues to the fore in a way that's both eye-opening and commercially relevant.

In any case there are a few specific parts of the project to talk about. The background maps are a custom tileset designed by Geraldine using data from Open Street Map (and credited properly as such, this time) and generated using Tile Stache.

AKQA put together the snazzy interactive map that uses the tiles, combining the designed street tiles in combination with Google's satellite imagery...

..with results that are eerily reminiscent of satellite/street combination maps that we made for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games:

We're also pleased to be working with Ryan Alexander again, he's been doing the 3-d visuals that are driving the in-game data visualizations that Nike are publishing for the duration of the race:

This last bit deserves a final point: W+K are taking each day's race data and publishing daily updates highlighting various aspects of the race. Today's video isBoys vs Girls, showing the relative points and badges etc. accumulated by boys vs. girls over the course of the day. It ends with a "get running, girls!" message, and I love that data visualization is being used as a way for a brand to tell a story, in something close to real time, in a specific way tailored to the events on the ground:

Oct 14, 2010

A conversation with Barack Obama: live Twitter and television integration

Shawn and I are camped out in a trailer outside BET studios in Washington, DC to support BET, CMT and MTV's "A Conversation with Barack Obama," which airs at 4pm Eastern Time today. It's the usual madcap Keystone Cops situation that seems to be an inevitable part of live television production with wires and cables dangling every which way, and I sure hope the rain dies down by the time the event starts, if only so that we can hear each other over the incessant pounding on the roof of the trailer.

The visualization is online here, and builds on work that was previously battle-tested at the 2010 Video Music Awards. The idea is that you post messages to twitter with the #ask hashtag, followed by the issue you're interested in asking the President about. If it's a good one, he may answer it on the air. There's a list of the tags we're actively monitoring at this point on MTV's site, and we're actively monitoring the hashtags and plan to change and adjust the piece right up until show time. It is a live visualization, after all. This is our fifth live event collaboration with the good people at Twitter and MTV, and Eddy, the product we designed to support this kind of live twitter/television interaction, continues to evolve as we learn more and more about how the internet and live events can support one another.

There are lots of strong-looking men in suits walking around now with serious expressions and earplugs tucked into their collars, so it seems like this show is about to hit the road. More after the event. If you've got something you'd like to ask the President, twitter's here for you.

Sep 21, 2010

Prettymaps on 20x200 - prints!

We've—finally!—collaborated with the fabulous Jen Bekman's 20x200 on a print edition of a Stamen project, Prettymaps. 20x200 makes it possible for people to buy art at whatever level they're comfortable, from $20 to $200, and the project has put art into the hands of lots of people who wouldn't otherwise afford it, so good on them. Jen's written up a pretty comprehensive blog post about the project, which I've shamelessly copied and pasted below.

I don't have much else to add to what Jen's written (she's good) other than to say that any profits we receive on the project will be donated to the Humanitarian Open Street Map Team (Aaron's idea), in recognition of the incredible work that team does to increase citizen access to data under sometimes difficult and dangerous conditions. Oh, and also to mention that Aaron signed his name 2127 times during the making of the project, and is on a well-deserved break as a result.

Cope_Aaron_sfoak_sj_590.jpg

prettymaps (sfba) by Aaron Straup Cope

Greetings from the West, collector friends! I write to you from my second city of San Francisco, which is fitting, considering it's both the subject of today's edition and the happy home of its makers. As long-time subscribers know, I spend a lot of time in the Bay Area and like it that way. Living here in the 90s was formative and it's a place that continues to inspire the tech-centric entrepreneurial side of my Jekyl & Hyde / art & tech existence. Its community of creative technologists is dismantling the wall that exists between the two, as exemplified by today's edition, prettymaps (sfba) by Aaron Straup Cope, produced in association with Stamen, an innovative studio founded by my long-time friend (and high school classmate!) Eric Rodenbeck.

We live in a time of big (huge!) data; Stamen was among the first to recognize that all this data can be beautiful and has made a name for itself by creating stunning, often interactive, visualizations of complex datasets. Their vision was endorsed by MoMA, when Paola Antonelli included Cabspotting in their history-making Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition. As Stamen was making a name for itself in the art and tech worlds, Aaron was making some ground-breaking of his own in the engineering group at Flickr, doing amazing things with photographs and mapping data. prettymaps is the product of the convergence of not just data, but talent and what a beautiful result! With beauty comes understanding—by making data beautiful, a path is cleared into an overwhelming and often intimidating barrage of information.

This edition is particularly exciting to me because it's a MAP and maps are something that we're really nuts about.* What exactly are prettymaps made of? They're made of you! When you visit prettymaps.stamen.com, what you're seeing is an amalgamation of community-generated data. It draws from things like Flickr Shapefiles, which are Flickr's geo-tagged photos plotted out (there are lots and lots, like, tens of millions) and road, highway and path data collected by Open Street Map.

Today's SF map is the first in a series from Aaron. You can count on seeing prints documenting our favorite cities released in the coming weeks, and that's just the start of it! Our editions past also evidence our affections for making sense, and sometimes nonsense, of information: Stefanie Posavec's dismantling of Walter Benjamin, Chad Hagen's Nonsensical Infographics and even Wendy MacNaughton's attempt to turn emotions into parse-able pieces. We're information junkies when it comes down to it, and our aesthetic addiction is well-evidenced in the editions we're queuing up for the balance of the year.

*We've been drooling over The Map as Art at 20x200 HQ. The book features the work of more than a couple artists we're crazy about, including a not-to-be-named (yet!) legendary artist/designer we're working with to bring editions to you.

By Jen Bekman

Sep 15, 2010

Hangin’ With Mr. Bieber: Our Second MTV Video Music Awards

[by Mike]

Shawn and I are back from an epic five days in Los Angeles, our second run at the MTV Video Music Awards and our fourth live event collaboration with our good friends at MTV. The first time we visualized live Twitter traffic for the VMA's, we were tightly focused on the pre-show broadcast.

This time, MTV pulled us right into the main show!

Thanks to an invitation from Executive Producer Dave Sirulnick, our now year-long amazing working relationship with MTV's Michael Scogin, and the energetic participation of Chloe Sladden and Robin Sloan from Twitter Media HQ it was possible to drive a massive, 95 foot-wide LED screen of up-to-the-minute tweets right inside the venue, with on-air updates and voice-overs from Sway. Check out the videos for all three updates, and more from Twitter on MTV “TJ” Gabi.

The visualization itself is a response to MTV's stark, black and white art direction for this year's show. Shawn and Geraldine pulled together a new take on our particle-based visualizer for the 2010 Movie Awards, cranking up the size and animated activity of the numbers and representing tweet volume with a snowy flurry of moving blips. The piece came in three versions, one for the web-based online audience that allowed visitors to tweet right in the interface, a second for the red carpet touch screen pre-show, and a third that was piped directly to the stage at key moments in the show.

What's amazing about working this particular show is the far-reaching pop-stravaganza of it all, and the new potential for Twitter's user base to feed back into the show itself. This time, the participation of the audience expressed itself as a detailed accounting of over 2.3 million tweets for almost a hundred different artists and stars hammering out over 9,000 tweets per minute for Lady Gaga, 7,000 per minute for Cher, and almost 10,000 combined for Eminem and Rihanna.

What if next time the messages themselves work their way into the show, blasting the enthusiasm of a worldwide live audience all over the LED-and-scrim walls of the stage set? What if we expand the participation of the viewers from responding to hashtags and tweeting 190,000 times from the online visualization interface, to direct interaction with the artists on and back-stage?

Maybe this is the way television grows into a two-way medium? Robin says:

It’s got the familiar thrill of live TV, but it’s not just one-way anymore. This kind of integration pipes the conversation around a live event back into the event itself, and there’s a wonderful juxtaposition happening behind the scenes to make that happen. It’s old tools and new technology side-by-side—NTSC and HTTP co-mingling … what’s way more interesting to me is the way that live TV and real-time information actually reinforce one another. Every time something big happened in the VMAs, we saw massive, immediate spikes in related tweets.

For now, I'm happy with last decade's tired, old “beautiful but useless” being replaced with the fresh, new “helpful and flashy”, “gorgeous visualizations”.

Meanwhile, I leave you with this photo Shawn took of 3% of Twitter's hardware load and me: