Laura Kurgan : Spacial Information Lab

Laura Kurgan - Pop!Tech 2009 - Camden, ME

Invisible Visible: Spacial Information Lab

Laura Kurgan heads up the Spatial Information Design Lab, which is they call a Think and Action Tank. Kurgan states that there are no neutral maps and no neutral data. She introduced the PopTech audience to their project “Architecture and Justice” and explained how they are looking at a city’s infrastructure. This, she says, includes prisons, which are generally not discussed when talking about cities. 

Invisible Visible: Spacial Information Lab

The Architecture and Justice project views data in a geographical context; in this case mapping where inmates say they last lived before they were incarcerated against maps of where crime is committed within a city. The maps reveal that crime is more widespread than the “prison geographies”. The maps also display the cost of incarcaration, which is significant.

They’ve also used data points and mapping to track population migration. To illustrate, Kurgan played a video of a giant globe that scrolls across a curved screen, leaving a swath of data in its path and sending representative pixels flying across the screen to re-convene like a flock of tiny, well-informed birds. 

Other areas of interest for the Design Lab are tracking remittances (money from people who have moved to other countries that’s sent back home) and forced migration. 

Whether we like it or not, we’ve all been translated into data. How we chose to interpret data and what we do with it are the important question.