Brooklyn data studio The Office for Creative Research announced it will shut down this month, posting a goodbye letter in the past tense on its website yesterday.
The company created data visualizations and art installations for editorial and tech companies, mostly. Projects included visualizing Einstein’s theory of relativity for Scientific American, and data analysis on counterfeit medication in Nigeria for the venture fund Acumen, among many others. A full catalogue of their work exists on their site.
The Office for Creative Research was founded in 2013 by Mark Hansen, Ben Rubin and Jer Thorp.
We’re very proud of the work that we’ve done to advance equality in data systems 1/2
— The O.C.R. (@The_O_C_R) June 1, 2017
Poynter had a very good interview with Thorp last year, in which he explained what the OCR was trying to do. This bit about the subjectivity of algorithms stood out:
We use algorithms as a means to process data, to generate visual forms, to create scripts for performers, to create soundscapes. Some of these algorithms are “off the shelf,” in which case there’s editorial judgement that goes into which algorithm makes sense to use. Other algorithms we create ourselves, in which case we try to be mindful of how our subjectivity gets baked into the code. A two-word definition for an algorithm is “do until” — and it’s that until that gets us into trouble, as any quiet communication can be amplified into a loud one.