A note from the founder
There is so much to observe in the movements of flocking birds. You can see individuals animated by their surroundings. At the same time, you can see a whole mobilized by a thousand parts. Each bird steers itself based on the few birds closest to it: each has limited perception, but the perceptions in the flock overlap, so that as a whole the murmuration will move in synch. When birds flock in large numbers, the effect feels so improbable as to mesmerize and haunt. (Starlings can flock in the tens of thousands... other birds in the millions or more.)
I came up with the slogan "information in relation" because the way we understand data is always rooted in context. In the same way that a bird can only steer based on what it can see, a person can only understand data based on the world that they know. The process of visualizing data as meaningful information should attend to that context. Excellent design makes this possible.
In the way I've simulated a flock of birds for this website, it's easy to see the individual within the whole. In the way I design, I want to remember that each data point corresponds to something vast: often a person or a household, something that breathes and changes every minute. On a practical level, this means design as a strategy to express information about individuals who don't fit easily into the traditional pools of data. Conventional data visualizations often leave some people out. Even though the term "intersectionality" has entered a popular lexicon, few data visualizations express the conditions of those who occupy intersecting identities. I am working to create data tools that accomodate these hidden nuances. The current landscape of interactivity and animation makes this work both possible and fun.
After years of freelancing primarily through word-of-mouth, I created Starling Data. Starling is a home for my work in data analysis and expression. I chose a murmuration as the anchoring image for this site for the reasons I’ve just described. But I selected the starling in particular because it is a bird from my past. Growing up in Wisconsin, I loved watching starlings bathe on days when rain had puddled. I was fascinated by the starling’s trill and the way its dark feathers shine colors when glistening in the right light. I know that starlings can interfere with agriculture, and sometimes it’s a big problem. But my personal history means I see these birds as lovely animals. Their image as I render it is personal. In the same way, data, when forged into information, becomes personal. Through design, we can embrace data as something tangled into the world of the personal, of personhood, of people.