Posts by James
James speaks at SATE Conference

This past fall I spoke at the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) SATE conference at Carnegie Mellon University. SATE stands for Storytelling, Architecture, Technology and Experience — the core elements of themed entertainment — and by “themed entertainment” they mean amusement parks like Disney World and Universal Studios, among others.

TEA has posted my talk, “Technology Unleashed”, if you’re interested in watching.

Presenting in front of a massive screen at the SATE conference.
Presenting in front of a massive screen at the SATE conference.

SATE is a two day conference dedicated to exploring how their core elements can be used to create meaningful places, experiences, and events. I was asked to speak about how data visualization can be integrated into Experience Design. Being an industry outsider, it was interesting to speak to an audience that is less familiar with data visualization, and the ways it can be translated into experience design within the park architecture, behind the scenes, and after visitors leave the parks.

There were a lot of other great speakers, take a look:

“Experience in the Age of Big Data” – Joshua Jeffery

“Social Action Unleashed” – Anna Musun Miller

“Avoid the Penny” – Adam Bezark

It was a great conference. Thanks to the team at TEA for having me.

Recent talks

Though we’ve been busy with client projects in the office, we’ve also participated in a flurry of speaking events and conferences in the last month.

Mark and I recently spoke at Visualized in New York, which is a conference that brings together designers, storytellers, and technologists to explore the future of information communication. The conference organizers asked us to speak about our work on Scaled in Miles, which looks at the career and collaborations of Miles Davis. Keeping the talk to a single project was a great way for us to outline our initial passion for the topic, and describe the process of applying a single dataset to multiple mediums ranging from an interactive web app to a printed poster. A video of the talk will be posted soon, so stay tuned.

Photo by Chrys Wu
Visualized: New York, NY (Photo by Chrys Wu)

Last month, I spoke at Carnegie Mellon University to the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) SATE Conference. It was fascinating to learn about the future of experience design within theme parks from speakers from Disney World and Universal. I was able to speak about how we design with data across diverse audiences, and how it can be applied across all scales — from a mobile device to an architectural installation. This talk will also be available soon.

SATE: Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburg, PA
SATE: Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

And this Thursday Ben will be speaking at PopTech in Camden, Maine, which looks to be a really exciting conference. With this year’s theme of “hybrid,” the conference will explore how people, projects, and ideas bring about thoughtful and unexpected solutions that combine art and science, among other disciplines.

PopTech Camden, Maine
PopTech: Camden, Maine

Stay on the lookout for upcoming events, or check out some of our past talks here.


In celebration of the 40th anniversary and special re-release of the famous movie that made us afraid to swim in the ocean, we present Jawsography, an interactive app that analyzes the cinematography of the 1975 film, Jaws.

I’ve always been fascinated by the art direction and cinematography in Spielberg’s classic film. While he executes many amazing filmmaking techniques throughout the movie, the strong compositional shifts from the left, center, and right hand side of each frame are striking. 

I wanted to see if the actual compositional shifts were as strong as my initial memories watching the film, so we built a tool that allowed us to look at all the frames of the movie. We started by looking at 1 frame per 10 seconds of film, but we ended up with too many transitional frames. The final app pulls 1 frame per minute of film.

Jaws at 1 frame per minute

The compositional patterns started to emerge pretty clearly. We built another tool that allowed us to cycle through the frames quickly, and mark which ones had left, center, or right visual weight. In due time, we began describing the positioning with nautical nomenclature: Port and Starboard.

I had so much fun swiping through the frames and determining which compositional weight was the strongest that I managed to wrangle most of the office into another boondoggle. I was determined to bring the app into reality. Quickly Jawsography was born. Take a look on your mobile device (or laptop) to see the cinematography of Jaws in a whole new way. Dive in!

Fathom road show

This week has been filled with some exciting travel and speaking opportunities for the Fathom team. Ben teamed up with Chelsea Clinton in NYC to give a talk at Internet week, and Teri, Alex, and I spent a day in D.C. presenting our work at the World Bank Group.

Ben and Chelsea Clinton presenting at Internet Week, New York, NY

Internet Week celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit and global impact of technology on business, entertainment and culture. Ben took the opportunity to present the process of translating 850,000 data points into a series of accessible, compelling, and interactive stories that live on a larger content platform. He also previewed some of our current work in progress; we are optimizing the No Ceilings map to run on mobile devices using WebGL. Soon users will be able to navigate a 3D globe to access and share the No Ceilings data.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 11.32.00 AM
3D No Ceilings map running on mobile

A few other folks from the office headed to D.C. to present a few projects to the World Bank Group. The event was organized jointly by the India Country Management Unit and the Social Inclusion Global Solutions Group. We spoke about some of the custom tools we created to analyze the data for What the World Eats and No Ceilings. The folks at the World Bank were both excited and surprised to find that 13% of the indicators used for No Ceilings had come from their World Bank Open Data catalogue.

Alex and James outside the World Bank Group’s headquarters. Washington, D.C.

We also had a great dialogue around Open India 2.0, a project we created for the the World Bank Group’s Country Partnership Strategy with India. Open India navigates the progress and challenges of one of the world’s most populous nations by tracking the development of hundreds of projects and knowledge activities across three areas of engagement.

Landing page screen shot of Open India 2.0
Landing page of Open India 2.0

We’re grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the process and progress of some of our recent projects. Keep an eye out for the Fathom road show heading towards a town near you.

Open India contextualized

Today, in collaboration with Sarah Rinaldi, we released a video documenting Open India, an interactive visualization we developed for the World Bank Group. The video was showcased at the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group (WBG). The Annual Meetings bring together central bankers, ministers of finance and development, private sector executives, and academics to discuss issues of global concern, including the world economic outlook, poverty eradication, economic development, and aid effectiveness.

We interviewed key stake holders associated with the World Bank Group‘s Country Partnership Strategy with India (CPS), which develops transformational solutions aimed at ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity. The video frames the context around the app, and reflects the humanity behind the data. The interviews address why visualizing and interacting with the information improves the transparency, accountability, and opportunities for growth and progress with India’s CPS.

“This app is to generate ideas, People will drive India forward, and will drive the rest of the world forward with their aspirations, with their ideas, and with the incredible potential of this country.”
Onno Ruhl, India Country Director, World Bank

The video will help the status of India’s CPS reach a larger audience at the 2014 Annual Meetings of the IMF and WBG.

It was a pleasure working with talented Sarah Rinaldi in documenting the project, and we look forward to future collaborations.

Founded in 2010 by Ben Fry, Fathom Information Design works with clients to understand complex data through interactive tools and software for mobile devices, the web, and large format installations. Out of its studio in Boston, Fathom partners with Fortune 500s and non-profit organizations across sectors, including health care, education, financial services, media, technology, and consumer products.

How can we help? hello@fathom.info.