Michal Migurski's notebook, listening post, and soapbox. Subscribe to this blog. Check out the rest of my site as well.

Nov 16, 2004 8:07pm

everything is right with the universe

As I was leaving Adobe yesterday, I noticed the title of the exhibit: There Is Nothing Wrong In This Whole Wide World. I was reminded of a recent New Yorker article about Edward Stratemeyer, the brains behind Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and other factory-written kids' fiction series of the past century:

Wirt gave the early volumes a "New Woman" flavor, but the core of Nancy's appeal is similar to the Hardys'. The mode is adventure with a flourish of mystery. The plot is furthered by coincidence. Nancy discovers "clues" everywhere: A tire tread? "A clue!" A ransom note with a fire-dragon crest? "It may be a clue," Nancy cries. Needless to say, these "clues" don't function as a puzzle that the enterprising reader can piece together for herself, as they do in Sherlock Holmes or Encyclopedia Brown mysteries. Instead, they are reassurances that order reigns behind the scenes. Nancy later happens to walk into a store in Chinatown and discovers that the store sells notepaper with a fire-dragon crest. Happily, the owner recalls not only that Nancy's suspect had been in the store several months earlier but also his name and build. The message is confidence-inspiring: The world is rife with crooks, but it is negotiable, and fundamentally rational. Hard work pays off. The damned remain damnedunless they repentand the wronged (long-lost maharajas' sons, heirs to candlemakers' fortunes) are restored to their rightful life at the intersection of High and Elm, among the rangy Colonials and the tall trees.

Great stuff. So much information visualization and data mining work rests on this assumption as well: there are patterns out there, recognizing them points to truth. Last week's Ten x Ten illustrates this beautifully, showing a frequently-updated batch of images gleaned from the news, owing much to Flickr's Daily Zeitgeist display of recent photos.

My own In The News project from last summer relies on this underlying order as well, so I was thrilled to see that sometime Saturday, news.google.com switched its algorithm for choosing the top ten "In The News" items back to the previous, pre-August 2004 version. The visual difference in display is striking, with a greater and more subtle range of names making the cut showing a more accurate (I hope) picture of the topics making the headlines.

When you're feeling blue about War and Politics, it's helpful to believe that the universe is negotiable, and fundamentally rational.


Sorry, no new comments on old posts.

October 2018
Su M Tu W Th F Sa

Recent Entries

  1. planscore: a project to score gerrymandered district plans
  2. blog all dog-eared pages: human transit
  3. the levity of serverlessness
  4. three open data projects: openstreetmap, openaddresses, and who’s on first
  5. building up redistricting data for North Carolina
  6. district plans by the hundredweight
  7. baby steps towards measuring the efficiency gap
  8. things I’ve recently learned about legislative redistricting
  9. oh no
  10. landsat satellite imagery is easy to use
  11. openstreetmap: robots, crisis, and craft mappers
  12. quoted in the news
  13. dockering address data
  14. blog all dog-eared pages: the best and the brightest
  15. five-minute geocoder for openaddresses
  16. notes on debian packaging for ubuntu
  17. guyana trip report
  18. openaddresses population comparison
  19. blog all oft-played tracks VII
  20. week 1,984: back to the map