Kirell Benzi on Data Art & The Future of Science Communication


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Science has always been about improving human understanding of our universe…but scientists have not always prioritized accessibility of their hard-won results. The deeper research digs into specialized sub-fields and daunting data sets, the greater the divide a team must cross to help communicate their findings not just to the public, but to other scientists.

It is cliché: “A picture’s worth a thousand words.” But it’s the truth: strong visual communication helps readers make the choice to dig into dense manuscripts, and helps journal editors decide whose work gets published in the first place. Good dataviz can get complexity across in less time and with less effort, help public audiences grasp science better and appreciate the beauty that inspired the research to start with.

Deciding how to represent research in graphic form is both a little science and a little art: it takes developing an understanding of what information matters and what doesn’t, and how other people will absorb it. Thus it should come as no surprise that in our noisy era, the data artist rises as a hero of both fields: empowered by technology to bridge dissociated disciplines and help us all learn more and better.

This week’s episode is with Kirell Benzi, a data artist and data visualization lecturer who holds a PhD in Data Science from EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne). Kirell’s work has been shown in outlets as diverse as the Swiss National Museum, Gizmodo, VICE, and In this recording, we discuss his projects mapping the Montreaux Jazz Festival and the Star Wars Extended Universe, the future of neural-network assisted data visualization, and how data art helps with the technical and ethical challenges facing science communication in the 21st Century.

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Kirell Benzi’s Website

Kirell’s Instagram

Kirell’s SFI seminar on Data Art (video)

“Useful Junk? The Effects of Visual Embellishment on Comprehension and Memorability of Charts” by Scott Bateman, Regan L. Mandryk, Carl Gutwin, Aaron Genest, & David McDine, University of Saskatchewan

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Podcast Theme Music by Mitch Mignano.

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25 episodes