MSUM professor uses scientific data to create visuals

Stamper’s graphic visualization is displayed on 24 55-inch flat screen monitors in preparation for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Stamper’s graphic visualization is displayed on 24 55-inch flat screen monitors in preparation for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Michael Stamper has a unique job of giving people visions. When Stamper isn’t busy in his duties as assistant professor of graphic design at MSUM, he works on turning large sets of data into visual aids to help an individual better understand the information.

Stamper explained that this new field of graphic design and data visualization takes large sets of data and cleans and analyzes them in order to identify three things:

1. Trends and growth or decline over time.

2. Connections amongst networks of people, topics, institutions, social networks, etc.

3. Geographical information concerning location, specifically areas where these trends are taking place.

By making the information visual, the message is better received by the user. “(The goal) is to make it easy to use, help form insights and to spur further investigation by allowing the user to see something they may not have been aware of,” Stamper said. The process incorporates graphic design, cognitive psychology and cartography in order to “put a face to data that makes it useful, insightful and fun to interact with.”

Michael Stamper

Michael Stamper

Stamper has been in the field of data visualization since he left his job at Indianapolis’s largest advertising and public relations firm, Hirons & Company. Prior to taking his current position at MSUM, Stamper was the senior designer of data visualizations and graphics at the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center (CNS), a part of the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University in Bloomington. He received his training from one of the world’s leading information scientists and data visualization experts, Dr. Katy Börner.

Stamper is part of a team at The Center for Knowledge Diffusion, Bloomington. The team is currently working on a project for NASA to “measure the impact of science conducted on the International Space Station,” Stamper said. A team of 1,200 scientists conducted research projects in the microgravity environment on the International Space Station. Stamper and the team of designers take that information to create the data visualizations.

Because the field of data visualization is relatively new, “I’d love to start getting MSUM students involved in, perhaps, working on some of these visualization projects,” Stamper said. Eventually the print based work Stamper is currently doing will need to be rendered into 3-D, interactive objects, which he thinks would be a great project for students in the Cinema Arts and Digital Technologies’ (CADT) 3-D animation courses. “It’s fun to do something that involves art/design and science.” He would also like to collaborate with colleagues in the other science departments as well.

Click here for more information on the data visualizations and to see more examples of the work Stamper has done.

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