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Animating the Representation of Europe

Visualizing the coherence of international institutions using dynamic animal-like structures (Part #1)

Proposal arising from discussion at a conference on "Redesigning Europe in the Third Millennium: a New Sustainable Vision of Democracy" (Budapest, May 2004) organized by Presentation to a Renaissance Europe meeting on Synergies for the Well-being of Society (Brussels, June 2004) - "a project to put Europe in motion again". Presented to a Renaissance Europe meeting on Synergies for the Well-being of Society (Brussels, June 2004) - "a project to put Europe in motion again". Also published in modified form in Statistics, Visualizations and Patterns (Vol 5 of the Yearbook of International Organizations, K G Saur Verlag, 6th edition, 2006/2007, as section 10.4.1)
Challenge of "soullessness" -- beyond the "pillar-ization of Europe"
Representation and its symbolic implications
Beyond impoverished metaphors
Proposal for dynamic representation of institutional budget lines

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The following proposal derives from work at the Union of International Associations (UIA) on the representation of complex clusters of numerous entities -- whether international organizations, world problems, strategies, human values, or others [access]. The networks of such entities are currently extracted from databases in response to user queries and displayed over the web in "spring maps". The user can manipulate: these maps: increasing or decreasing complexity, changing colours, accessing a particular database profile, etc. These spring maps are based on a Java application developed for the UIA by Gerald de Jong of BeautifulCode (Netherlands). [see examples and gallery]

In the case of international organizations, the focus of the UIA initiative to date has been on representation of inter-organization links in such spring maps. This visualization work was funded within the framework of the EU Fifth Framework Info2000 programme. The problem in the case of the complex of institutions of the European Union is to extend this to the representation of intra-organizational links -- and to relate such links to the guiding principles and values that it is expected will be defined by the European Constitution, for example.

The following proposal was inspired by another web-based spring map Java application, called SodaConstructor, developed independently by Ed Burton of SodaPlay -- the project of a London-based company called Soda Creative Ltd as part of their research and development process [history].

The proposal considers the possibility of importing organizational data into a web application, as is done in the UIA case, and animating it as a model as is done by SodaConstructor.

The idea for the above proposal arose during the course of participation at a recent conference on "Redesigning Europe in the Third Millennium: a New Sustainable Vision of Democracy" organized by (Budapest, May 2004). In response to a presentation on Using Research in the Participative Orchestration of Europe, participants approved the idea of exploring the use of visualization and sound.

Box 1: Value of Soda-type Animations

Soda combines an arts and research practice with a broad range of commercial activities. A freehand animation package, Moovl, has also been developed. SodaConstructor has received considerable attention world wide and continues to attract many users. Its most interesting models, notably by Kevino (Kevin Okada), have been the subject of exhibitions. Soda has recently launched a new sound version of SodaConstructor, entitled SodaConstructor betasound. which uses the so-called jsyn plugin to enable Sodaconstuctor to create high fidelity stereo sound in conjunction with animation movement. A 3D version of SodaConstructor is also under development (see examples of code).

A desktop version, SodaConstructor local (installed using Java Webstart), can export and import models in XML format (example; DTD definition) to and from a local file system and, once installed, allows the user to play with them without re-connecting to the internet. Users have a choice as to whether they store their models (selected examples; walker) online on the Sodaplay server or offline on their local computer. Sharing a model online involves either sending it to the SodaZoo or posting it in the SodaForum. Users need to be online to login into a SodaPlay account to save it on the SodaPlay server. Some users develop their own independent interfaces to facilitate construction of models (see SodaGenerator).

SodaConstructor is a freely accessible Java technology-based online construction kit that gives players the ability to build interactive creations using limbs and muscles. By altering physical properties like gravity, friction, and speed, curiously anthropomorphic models can be made to walk, climb, wriggle, jiggle, or collapse into a writhing heap (see description of underlying physics). A SodaZoo has been built up, where a large and active worldwide community of sodaplayers has placed a strange and diverse menagerie of SodaConstructor models. Under funding from the UK National Endowment for Science and Technology and the Arts (NESTA), SodaPlay is currently developing SodaConstructor and related software into a flexible toolkit to deliver creative learning and fun to schools in the UK [more].">more].

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