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Information Design & Visualization + Interdisciplinary Arts MFA Thesis Exhibit

The IDV graduates present both physical and digital visualizations that inform us about their passions for data and their talents as storytellers. Their projects challenge and inform the coding of data we experience in our everyday lives — from pop music to spoken language, from the value of pennies to the understanding of rugby, from understanding of zoo animals to where we find food in our neighborhoods. How has the shape of female video game characters changed during the past 10 years? Can you read a cat’s emotion in its facial expression? Do you understand the policies behind public data dashboards? The Interdisciplinary Art graduates present thought-provoking artifacts of hostile architecture in public spaces, and a virtual reality exploration of feeling trapped. Together the eleven projects invite us to interact, explore and learn.


Yi Chia Cheng

Visualizing Linguistic Distance and Relationships

When we visualize how sounds are made in different languages, what patterns do we see?

Cheng creates a cross section of the human vocalization system (nasal cavity, mouth, throat and larynx). She visualizes where sounds are produced to pronounce “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” in English, German, Danish, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Russian and French. Red dots indicate the position where a sound is created. Blue dots indicate sounds that are vocalized by a combination of two positions. Visitors are invited to listen to, watch and compare animations of the vocalization positions in each language.



Stephen Costa

Bringing Clarity to Transparency: A Study of Dashboard Implementation in the Public Sector

Citizens have access to local, regional and national information as the result of a series of public policies and procedures intended to support government transparency.  This information is often presented online in the form of a data dashboard. Where does this this data come from and how is it created?

Costa’s Dashboard Box visualizes the seen and unseen layers of the transparency process. The audience is invited to explore the question of what is behind the public data dashboard by sliding out the layers and examining the information behind the information.



Kate Kryder

Fouls and Fowls

The excitement of cheering fans is what make spectator sports a major part of modern entertainment. But how do you explain a complex sporting event to people unfamiliar with the sport?

Kryder’s project uses the popular European sport of rugby as a case study. Rugby’s similarity to American football makes the action on the field particularly puzzling to American audiences. Kryder’s Rugby for Rookies phone app demonstrates how information design can be used to help an American audience know when to cheer and when to sigh. The audience is invited to download the app, sit down and learn when to cheer watching the video of the rugby game.



Qingyue Li

Lifestyle Geography of Food Environments

Where do we experience food in the urban environment? How does the distribution of different kinds of food experiences – types of restaurants and public space to experience a meal – relate to the balance of residential and working neighborhoods as well as individual lifestyle in a city?

Li’s project uses Boston neighborhoods to visualize data related to these questions. Her maps show the distribution of food-related sites in working and living neighborhoods, and the density of types of restaurants throughout the city. The visitor is invited to use her website to further explore these questions.



Anqi Liu

Gender Representation in Video Games

How has the shape of female video game characters changed during the past 10 years? What are the differences between the body shape of a real woman and these fantasy characters?

Liu has created these models of the average body shape using data about the appearance of hundreds of video game characters. The visitor is invited to look into these transparent models, see how sizes have changed from year to year, and compare the body shapes of game figures to the average body shape of a real woman. Finally, the visitor is invited to confront their own body shape in a mirror with the outline of a female video game character.



Daniel Spector

In Pennies We Trust, But Should We?

Is the penny a waste of resources? Is it a necessary part of our monetary life?  What are the arguments on the two sides of this coin?

Spector invites the visitor to confront the controversial question of eliminating the penny. He presents physical evidence of the penny’s decline in buying power, from newspapers to chocolate bars to Red Sox tickets to beers. His website employs scrollytelling to help the visitor experience the data behind the controversy. Data animations activate as the visitor scrolls through the website.


Siyuan Sun

Lifelogging Part 1: Visualizing Music

What is the value of lifelogging, our current habit of recording our life experiences through various sensors and devices? Can the mass of data about the music we listen to, the photos we take, and our social interactions be useful to the person recording them?

To explore this question, Sun developed a prototype application, Mylifelog, to visualize data from her own music listening history. The visitor can examine a poster visualization of the quantity and types of music Sun listened to by month and year. The video loop shows a 3D interface for exploring the same data set.


Lifelogging Part 2: Recording Feelings

The visitor is invited to simulate lifelogging by recording how they feel on an emotion board. Use the date stamp to record the time, then place the sticker in the quadrant that best reflects your current feeling.



Chenrui Ye

Bring Live Animals Closer: The Visual Grammar of Information Design in Augmented Reality

How can Augmented Reality be used to address the problems and disappointments faced by visitors to a public zoo? Can information design in this new technology bring visitors closer to live animals in a way that builds understanding and empathy?

Ye invites the visitor to explore these questions by using an AR application. Using a tablet or personal phone, the visitor first experiences a lion on the table. Then information is added to the lion to enhance the visitor’s understanding of this specific animal. Finally, the visitor is invited to look up to see themselves being watched as they watch the virtual animal on the table.



Ziyi Zhao

Helping Owners Understand Cat Behavior

Are you a cat owner? Have you tried to “read” your cat’s facial expression or body language? How many connections between cat facial expressions and body postures do you recognize?

Zhao has analyzed hundreds of cat photographs to identify the body postures and facial expressions associated with eight types of cat behaviors. The visitor is invited to choose one of the eight facial expressions. Examine the body postures on the board and match the face to the body postures. If you are correct, the connecting lines will light up.



Yangli Liu

Captive Memoirs

Have you ever felt trapped? How do our choices come to define us, even when they result in conditions that are far beyond our control? How can listening to other people’s stories create shared memories that enable mutual support?

Captive Memoirs is a virtual reality experience that explores moments in the lives of six people who have felt trapped by social expectations, circumstances, or their own choices. Using the Oculus Go headset (available at the docent table), the audience enters a virtual environment that allows them to interact with the characters within a flexible narrative structure. Focusing on the dilemmas of daily life, this project creates an intimate virtual space that can be confronted, shared and felt.



Dustin Jay Bell

Violence at Rest

The artifacts and video presented here document Violence at Rest, a tour and direct action that took place on April 11th 2019. The tour, led by Dustin Jay Bell and sanctioned by the parafictional International Urbanaut Society, educated the Northeastern Public about the use of exclusionary design. The three armed bench and other seemingly innocuous design decisions intentionally exclude people experiencing homelessness. The tour culminated in a direct action, the ritual cutting of the exclusionary central arm of a three-armed bench, allowing it to be slept on and made inclusive. The inclusive bench remained for eleven days and was removed on April 22, 2019. It has not been recovered.

This direct action was a Joint Service between the International Urbanauts Educational Core represented by Dustin Jay Bell, and the Exclusionary Reclamation Services represented by Yangli Liu, and Brooke Dunahugh. Video by David Cohn; photography by Rio Asch Phoenix.