Skip to content

For the second year in a row, Northeastern University’s College of Arts, Media and Design is represented as a winner of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Popular Science magazine’s Annual Vizzies Challenge, which celebrates the use of visual media to artfully and clearly communicate scientific data and research. This year, CAMD Assistant Professor Mauro Martino’s “Network Earth,” produced in collaboration with Jianxi Gao, Baruch Barzel, and Albert-László Barabási (visualization), as well as Shamini Bundell (narration) was selected as the 2017 Experts’ Choice, Video Category. The competition, now in its 15th year, aims to recognize the most illustrative and impactful visualizations from the worlds of science and engineering.

In “Network Earth,” Martino, who manages IBM’s Watson Cognitive Visualization Lab, explores the interconnections between all life on Earth and highlights the important relationships that are often invisible to humans. For example, the relationship between plants and ants, depicted in the video, is extremely meaningful and close to everyone, but typically goes unnoticed by the human eye. Through visualizing something that would otherwise remain unseen, the video challenges viewers to think about how their own actions can impact these invisible relationships – and the potentially catastrophic results of allowing them to collapse.

“This visualization is an alternative approach to exploring a complex concept,” explained Martino. “There are so many ways to talk about climate change, but giving it a visual representation is key to making its complexities feel real and tangible to viewers around the world. Through these visualizations, we highlight the implications of our changing Earth and how, as humans, we are responsible for them.”

Martino and the team originally created the video to accompany a research paper on Earth’s resilience, published in Nature. Martino explains that with this context in mind, the resulting “Network Earth” is an example of combining a paper with a compelling story to make a video, using technology to plot data.

Congratulations to Martino, Gao, Barzel, Barabási, and Bundell! To read the full list of 2017 winners, click here.