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Running the Numbers

  1. Sep 21, 2007 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    http://www.chrisjordan.com/current_set2.php


    Depicts two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes.
    [​IMG]
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 22, 2007 #2
    Nice link, thanks. :smile:
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2007
  4. Sep 22, 2007 #3

    Hurkyl

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    The images are neat, but I think it's rather despicable. Not only does the artist appear to be promoting innumeracy, but trying to moralize through it as well.
     
  5. Sep 22, 2007 #4

    Ivan Seeking

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    Yeah, and once you start there is no end to it!
     
  6. Sep 22, 2007 #5

    Gokul43201

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    The Seurat, and the Ben Franklin reproduction are neat.
     
  7. Sep 22, 2007 #6
    I don't see how it promotes innumeracy.
     
  8. Sep 22, 2007 #7

    Ivan Seeking

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    At a glance I assumed that Hurkyl was joking.

    A picture is moralizing?
     
  9. Sep 22, 2007 #8

    Hurkyl

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    You two did read the page, right?

    The main theme of his art is to awe us at the sheer scale of our global society, and I think that's a neat idea.

    The problem is that he wants us to "connect and make meaning" with various statistics through this awe: he has specifically stated he wants to blind us with large numbers!

    And given his choice of things to depict, I find it hard to believe that the artist isn't trying to send a moral message.
     
  10. Sep 22, 2007 #9

    turbo

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    Thanks for that link, Ivan. I like the guy's message and his method of conveying it.
     
  11. Sep 22, 2007 #10
    He has NOT specifically stated that he wants to "blind us with large numbers" as you put it. He is trying, in fact, to give more concrete meaning to the statistics by visually showing the viewer what large numbers of things actually look like.
     
  12. Sep 22, 2007 #11

    Hurkyl

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    Yes, that's exactly the problem. He wants to be awed at how the scale of these things are so much beyond that of our individual experiences, and he wants us to use that awe as a substitute for understanding statistics in a rational manner. When our reason is supplanted with "oooh, big", that is what it means to be blinded by a large number.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2007
  13. Sep 22, 2007 #12
    I doubt that he wishes to substitute one for the other. Art appeals to the senses of course, and awe is a goal of course, but it does not have to be a substitute, it can easily be an adjunct that gives a warmer meaning to cold numbers. Who knows, getting first an emotional response to big numbers could even turn some people on to stats.
     
  14. Sep 22, 2007 #13

    Ivan Seeking

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    The way that I see it, what you called blind, I call perspective. Sometimes it makes sense to step away from the blackboard and try to get the big picture. What this does is to bypass the dilution of the scope, that happens with large numbers in the abstract.

    Your logic would suggest that one gains a better perspective by looking at a topographical map of the Grand Canyon, than the real canyon. To fully appreciate the GC, one has to see it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2007
  15. Sep 22, 2007 #14

    Moonbear

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    I don't see how he's promoting innumeracy. If anything, I thought he was trying to make it more tangible to the person for whom those large numbers mean very little.

    And, of COURSE he's making a moral statement...that's clearly his primary purpose. Most artists have a purpose in their art, and a whole lot of them have a moral purpose in their art...this one's seems to be to highlight the environmental impact of a lot of things people do, or to comment on our throw-away society. You can agree or disagree with his point of view, that's fine...to me, that's what makes art interesting, that it provokes those sorts of discussions more so than that you buy into the artists' opinions.
     
  16. Sep 22, 2007 #15
    Some of these pictures remind me of blocks of thousands of transistors on an integrated circuit.

    Edit - especially the cigarette one.
     
  17. Sep 22, 2007 #16

    russ_watters

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    I agree that this is a misuse of statistics to make a political statement. [edit: not the same as innumeracy. I liken this to those astronomy animations we've seen that show the scale of celestial objects]

    I also agree with Moonbear that it does, however, make for interesting looking art.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2007
  18. Sep 22, 2007 #17

    Hurkyl

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    These images remind us the world is a lot bigger than we experience, but that's it. A picture of building blocks doesn't tell me anything about the the state of health care in the United States -- to make this analogy, one has to strip all meaning from the original statistic, leaving only an abstract number behind, and then substitute in an entirely new meaning for the abstract number. That you would suggest this could possibly help one understand the original statistic... there is no emoticon to express my bewilderment!
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2007
  19. Sep 23, 2007 #18
    I think the difference between the number 1,000,000 on paper and the actual sight of a million things is very interesting. That's all. I don't think it encourages innumeracy to appreciate this different perspective.
     
  20. Sep 23, 2007 #19

    Hurkyl

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    Neither do I. The problem is that the artist doesn't merely want us to appreciate this perspective; he wants us to use it to "connect and make meaning" of the original statistics.
     
  21. Sep 23, 2007 #20

    turbo

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    To most people, when they see numbers like a thousand, a million, and a billion, they start thinking "big number" without an appreciation for the fact that a million is a thousand thousands and a billion is a thousand millions. This artist is helping people conceptualize the stats, and gain an appreciation for just how big these numbers really are.

    I read somewhere a while back that the average person enumerating groups of randomly-arranged objects without counting tops out at about 7 items before having to resort to mentally sub-grouping or counting the items to be certain of the total number of items. That's a far cry from having an appreciation for just what a group of a million objects looks like.
     
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