When I hear the phrase "political action," I think of public demonstrations. But the most influential form of political action has nothing to do with making a sign or attending a rally--it's about donating money, and it's not done in public.
To visualize this (mostly invisible) form of political action, artist-researcher Mauro Martino, sociologist Sasha Goodman, and other members of Northeastern University's LazerLab team created software to download, process, and geocode data from thousands of files submitted to the Federal Election Commission by political action committees (PACs). Next, they used several visualization tools to create an animation showing the location and timing of campaign contributions throughout 2012. They zeroed in on Boston, because that's where they live, but the model could be applied anywhere.
Here's the result:
On the project's website, the researchers explain their visualization, which they call "MoneyBombs," this way:
In an email, Martino told me that the LazerLab team--which is dedicated to the study of social networks and human behavior--created the visualization to show how campaign contributions follow "a predictable pattern of waiting punctuated by moments of intense action." Also, Martino says, "We were motivated by uncovering what people around us were doing politically."
You can view more MoneyBomb animations on the team's website.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.