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HUB 22 – Visual Perspectives in Science

March 8, 2016 from 19:30 - 22:00






Short reports/feedback on the unseminar

Travel to the unseminar

For those of you from outside Heidelberg, this PDF file describes how to get from EMBL to the unseminar, which takes place in the BioQuant building in Neunheimerfeld. You might also want to download the timetables for the relevant pieces of public transport, that can be found on the local public transport organisation (VRN) website:

If travelling from EMBL, you should catch the 18.11 or 18.41 bus from EMBL to Bismarkplatz, and then get the 31 bus from there to Bunsengynasium (bus probably says on the front that it is going to “Neuenheim, Chirurgische Klinik”


To register for the event, please send a mail with your name and affiliation, to hub-hubatgmxdotnet. We’ve now filled the three slots we had available for flash talks, so aren’t looking for volunteers for that any more.

On the evening, in case too many people turn up, we’ll give priority to those who have pre-registered by email – if you turn up, and we’re full, then some of us will go off with you to the local student bar Cafe Botanik where the people who go to the unseminar will join you once the event is over.

You can read about some of our ideas for the evening here.


Part of the unseminar will involve working in small groups to visualise data together. We’ve been collecting data for this in this GitHub repo.


  • 19.30 – 19.35: Introductions (Florian)
    • HUB
    • Unseminars
    • the evening’s program
    • law of two feet
  • 19.35 – 19.45: Biology of optical illusions
  • 19.45 – 20.00: Icebreaker optical illusions (Toby)
    • We’ll look together in small groups at a set of optical illusions, discussing together why we think they happen
  • 20.00 – 20.10: Introduction to data visualisation – get slides here
  • 20.10 – 21.10: Data visualisation activity (Aidan)
    • see below
  • 21.10 – 21.25: Flash talks (3 * 3 minutes)
  • 21.25 – 21.35: If the dance group(s) want to, they have a chance to perform their visualisation in front of everyone
  • 21.35 – 21.40: Wrap up (Florian)
  • 21.40 – onwards off to Cafe Botanik (local student bar)

Icebreaker optical illusions

  • pile of 40 (?) printed handouts with a set of ‘open’/CC-BY etc. images of optical illusions, maybe also of rohrschach-like images
  • have printed versions of these also distributed around the room
  • Look at the illusions, compare with people nearby (pairs, small groups) what you see in them
    • introduce yourselves to each other
    • can any of you not see one of the alternatives?
    • if you can flip between the alternatives, try and explain how you do this
    • speculate about what you think could be an explanation for the effect you experience
    • maybe have a go trying to sketch your own

Data visualisation activity

We provide example datasets, things to highlight in them, and media to do this with (wooden blocks, plastic shapes, paper, posits, your own laptops, dance, etc.) – and have fun doing this together in small groups.

Activity setup

We present a range of “datasets plus things you could try and visualise from them”.

We provide them:

  • burnt on CDs
  • on Flash memory sticks
  • for download before coming to the evening from github
  • printed on A4 sheets

Possible data sets and questions:

  • 3D macromolecular complex from the PDB
    • take it from some paper that makes some interesting statements about it
    • ask people to use e.g. Chimera to find image(s) that highlight this point as clearly as possible
  • we invite people to bring their own data and things to illustrate from it
  • dance
    • we have pre-prepared a data set to work with on this

We provide a range of different media:

  • LEGO
  • dance therapist
  • paper, pens, postits, stickers, glue, scissors
  • laptops
Doing the activity

We ask participants to form their own groups of four, and decide together the data, and media/tools, they’d like to work with.

Participants are encouraged to Tweet pictures of their visualisation as they go along (#vizbihub) maybe also to email them to us (hub-hubatgmxdotnet) as they go along, together with their group name, for us to have a record of these.

Activity can be done and worked on outside the room i.e. in the corridors.

Showing and critiquing

After e.g. 30/40 minutes, the facilitator asks groups to find another group, and to show each other their visualisations. Groups give a critique to each other, by deciding together, and then sharing with the other group, one or two things they liked about the visualisation, and one or two things that they think could have been changed, to make it more effective at visualising the ‘message’ from the data.

Sharing with the whole room

After you’ve shown your visualisation to one other group (and looked at theirs), please put your visualisation on display, and then leave one member of your group to explain and answer questions about it from others – the rest of you are invited to move around the other groups, checking out what they’ve come up with.

If we have time… (which we doubt…)

Ask the full group (voting with their hands in the air for their preference):

  • do another visualisation with another group
  • do the ‘extra’ world-map activity (see below)
  • move on to the next part of the evening
Improvisational dance group

One medium for data visualisation we’ll be looking at will be using dance improvisation. This activity will be led by Ariane Konrad (Philosopher M.A., Dancetherapist DGT)

Our initial idea was to dance something relatively abstract and derived from many different data sources i.e. to represent in dance, differences perceived in features of healthy versus unhealthy cells.

We were curious to explore, however, ways of making dance more directly linked to primary data.

We looked at a range of scientific images together, with the thought that image data might be easier to turn into something interesting to dance, rather than ‘just’ a table of numbers, or a graph. As examples, we looked at images of galaxies we found via GalaxyZoo, and maps of London via LondonMapper.

Ariane commented that it would probably be easier to dance something that would allow us to tell a story, on data where it would be easy to project human emotions and motivations e.g. on cancer cells, one animal preying on another, the relationship between child and mother in animals.

We found images on YouTube of synchronised cell division in Drosophila, or of mitosis in detail in a particular cell (watching the many chromosomes pair up and then segregate. However we thought that to dance such things, we’d likely need a large group of people, and we’re not sure how many we’ll have.

To get access to data focused on small numbers of objects/animals/people we looked online for databases of videos of such data. However we couldn’t find anything that wasn’t purely didactic e.g. a resource showing example videos of different kinds of behaviour in diverse animals.

Then, however, we discussed the work of Armgard Bartenieff and Rudolf von Laban and their movement analysis, especially their work on efforts (space, time, power/ weight, flow), e.g. strong vs. light (power/ weight), sudden vs. sustained (time). We then had the idea of maybe doing the dance as a very abstract representation of some data e.g. one axis of data being represented by speed, another by strength, etc. – individual dancers (or pairs of dancers, to give more dynamic to the dance) would then dance individual data points – perhaps through a time series i.e. changing their values with time – varying their dance along these dance-axes to represent values along the data axes.

We liked, very much, the idea of trying something like this using a simple dataset of numbers of people entering and leaving the different London Underground stations, on the different days of the week.

We could pick (randomly, or based on a desire to show some kind of specific diversity in the data) e.g. 5 different stations. Each individual, or pair, could be assigned to a given station. Using one of the axes (strength) they could then dance the numbers of people getting on at that station, and perhaps a different axis for the people getting off. We could do this while going through the 7 days of the week – we could perhaps ask people watching to guess which day we ended on (looking for the pattern in the data – do they expect more people at that station during the week or at the weekend?

We thought of using the volume of music that we dance to changing, depending on the mean number of people using each station that day.

We also considered projecting the Tube map on the wall, maybe highlighting the stations we’re using/representing in the dance?

We also thought of choosing stations that can be associated with well-known acts e.g. parliamentary business at Westminster, theatre at Covent Garden, secret service by the MI6/MI5 buildings, court cases near the Old Bailey, cricket at The Oval, football at Wembley, market at Portobello Road – and then the pictures showing these activities could be shown on the map that’s projected – and the people dancing those stations, to use that activity, associated with that station, for their improvisation.

We also discussed doing the dance once with the thought of remaining very abstract about the numbers – perhaps also about the activities going on at the stations – and then another time where dancers try and emote more e.g. with the numbers of people coming in/out of a station (would it make them feel stressed, claustrophobic, if the number were too hight?).

Additional axes of information we could associate with stations could be:

  • how deep the deepest train tunnel is
  • how many steps are needed to get to ground level (could be negative if the tracks are above ground level)
  • how far the station is from Trafalgar Square
  • how old the station is
  • how many different Tube lines run through the station
  • how many stations it is from the end of a line that it is closest to

Extra “world map” activity

If the room decides, we’ll add another activity i.e. a world map, visualising together using the room as our ‘map’ the places people have travelled from to get to the meeting i.e. visualise where we travelled from to come to the event – or where is the furthest place we were from HD 3 days ago?

  • a point in the middle of the room represents Heidelberg – one point represents the South, the other the North pole
  • where did you travel from to come to the meeting/where were you 3 days ago that was furthest from Heidelberg?
  • imagine a world map around Heidelberg – place yourself where you think you came from on it – we’re going to have to have different scale in different parts of it, I’m sure
  • talk with people around you, to try and organise yourselves so that people travelling from geographically close locations, are close in the room
  • introduce yourselves to the people around you
  • did anyone find someone they didn’t know, who travelled from the same place as them?
  • any insights into issues associated with data visualisation from the exercise?


Content work before the event

  • choosing and preparing datasets: FLORIAN
  • find list of open-licence optical illusion images and prepare for printing: TOBY (with DANIEL) (by Mon 7 March)
  • contacting EMBL kindergarten: AIDAN (pick up Fri 4 March)
  • meeting with Ariane to plan dance session: AIDAN (Tue 1 March)
  • buy gifts for the speakers: AGNES
  • organise wifi for the room – potentially 200 devices (100 people, two devices each?): MATT
  • Choose the Flash Talks: AIDAN
  • Collect slides from Flash Talkers before the event, and have them ready on a laptop for display on the evening: AIDAN

Logistics before the event

  • washing kindergarten material: AIDAN, SARA (Fri 4 March)?
  • prepare poster: MATT
  • advertise to HUB mailing list: AIDAN
  • on-the-day reminder to HUB mailing list: AIDAN
  • prepare PDF with instructions on getting to the venue, and back from the venue/Cafe Botanik to Hbf, Bismarkplatz, Boxberg, together with Taxi numbers and tram timetables: FLORIAN
  • buy beer, other drinks and keep them cool: TOBY
  • bring along lots of different ‘media’ stuff to work with for visualising data (large sheets of paper, lots of different coloured pens, post-it notes, card, scissors, glue: AGNES, MARIA
  • organise volunteers to:
    • guide people from EMBL to BioQuant with buses: VOLUNTEERS
    • hand out badges on the evening: VOLUNTEERS
    • wait at doors to venue during the meeting to explain whats going on, and welcome, latecomers: SARA, OTHER VOLUNTEER
    • if too many people turn up, people to be ready to take the ones without badges to cafe botanik (to be met up with later): VOLUNTEER
  • print VizBi/HUB signs for putting up around venue, and carrying with us when taking people from EMBL to the venue: VOLUNTEERS

Afternoon/evening at the venue before the event:

  • bringing Lego etc. to the venue, and putting it out for use: AIDAN, OTHER VOLUNTEERS
  • print and prepare name badges for registered participants: VOLUNTEERS
  • bring food and drink to the BioQuant room: VOLUNTEERS
  • set up signs to the room, maybe from the tram stop: MARIA
  • organise chairs in the room – just randomly placed all over the shop? no circle?: VOLUNTEERS

From EMBL to the HUB

  • tutorials end 18.00 – we need HUB organisers, with printed HUB/VizBi sign, to wait at busstop for 18.06 and 18.36 buses to bring people people to the venue: VOLUNTEERS

The unseminar

On-site just-before event logistics

  • welcoming and greeting participants, giving badges to pre-registered participants, giving on-the-spot badges to those who didn’t pre-register, giving coloured stickers to people who don’t want to be prominent in photos we take of the event: SARA, OTHER VOLUNTEERS
  • Food and drink is set up OUTISDE the room, we’re not allowed to take it inside!


March 8, 2016
19:30 - 22:00


Florian Huber


Im Neuenheimer Feld 267
Heidelberg, 69120 Germany
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