"We humans, over the last 300, 400 years, have gotten really good at collecting information and recording it," Tim Schwartz says. "In the last 20 years, we’ve finally gotten the power to analyze extremely large sets of data, like Google does." Schwartz, who was a physics major at Wesleyan University, in Connecticut, and wrote the code for the social-rank Web site Fame Game during a postcollege stint in New York, can sound like a new-media evangelist. But he’s down-to-earth — a bearish Midwesterner with a buzz cut, raised in St. Louis — and not one to swoon. Recalling the city’s new-media scene earlier in the decade, he says, "There were always the same kinds of visualizations. They were superflat and just boring, like any data chart you’d find in the science world." It was when he started at UC San Diego, in 2007, that Schwartz began taking data off the screen and bringing it into physical space. He started trolling eBay, surplus stores, and antiques shops for vintage gauges from power plants, submarines, ham radios, and the like to refurbish and use in his works.
Command Center, 2008 (01:21)
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