Office of Creative Research

What kinds of programs does the OCR make?

Does one have to be a computer wiz to work at the OCR?

Does the OCR ever get to make something for fun?

In Chinatown we visited the Office of Creative Research. The OCR is a two and a half year old, multidisciplinary research group of eight people that explores new ways of engaging and interacting with data. At the office, we were given a talk by Jer Thorp, a “data visualization guru”. Jer first spoke to us about some of the work the office has done for the Digital Crimes Unit at Microsoft. He showed us a program called Specimen Box made for those fighting cyber crime. The program is designed for monitoring botnets and gives the user the ability to visually analyze the data. It shows botnet traffic, botnet location and botnet traffic frequency. It also allows for a comparison of different botnets and the ability to graph this comparison. Jer also showed us a project based on analysis of the MoMA collection catalogue. The program allowed for queries on similarities in title, artist, etc. All of these projects were based on the idea that usefulness and visual appeal can both exist within the same program.

This visit was one of the most entertaining visits so far in New York. The second that Specimen Box was turned on, I was completely entranced (and I think many of my classmates were as well). The visuals on screen looked like something right out of a sci-fi film or video game. These visuals on a giant touchscreen that was in an old run down building in Chinatown gave the whole place a very cyberpunk feel. Aside from all of my aesthetic distractions, the visit was also very meaningful; it was really great to see people with unbelievable minds working on tools for benefiting the world instead of just working for money.

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