The 2009 Creativity 50: Aaron Koblin

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Aaron Koblin was one of the dozen or so artists carrying the banner for data visualization and, more specifically, the Processing programming language and environment at MOMA's 2008 landmark next-gen design exhibition, "Design and the Elastic Mind." The 26-year-old had two pieces in the show: "Flight Patterns," a streaky trace of air traffic routes over North America and "New York Talk Exchange," a piece showing communications paths outbound from NYC to every corner of the globe, which Koblin participated in as a member of MIT's SENSEable City Laboratory team.

If that wasn't enough, two of Koblin's recent efforts have also earned great acclaim. Another project using Amazon's piece-work aggregator Mechanical Turk, "Ten Thousand Cents," asked workers from Amazon's crowdsourcing marketplace to each draw a tiny portion of a hundred dollar bill for one penny, with the resulting interactive mural forming a splotchy Ben Franklin. Later in '08, Koblin arrived at Google to collaborate with its Creative Lab and director James Frost as director of technology on Radiohead's landmark camera-less "House of Cards" video, which has been nominated for a Grammy. Koblin can't say much about forthcoming projects, but he says they include another trip to the Turk well, a team-up with a musical artist for a live performance and an interactive weather-related installation at San Jose International Airport.

Koblin on what he hopes to see develop in his lifetime: "I'm extremely interested to see where all this data collection goes. I'm wondering if we all wind up polluting our spaces so much that it becomes insignificant, or if we are able to continue growing our storage and search organization in order to keep everything relevant. All I can do is think about if we had the technologies that we have today hundreds of years ago, how interesting history would be. Just thinking about family heritage, or thinking about the world. Look at a technology like Street View; imagine what it would be like to use that with footage from 200 years ago or even 50 years ago. And also being able to interpolate between the stages of collection, to watch at one location, literally, as history unfolds in front of your eyes."

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