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A mossy viz to try at home

Visualization purists beware. This “viz” is mossy — as in moss.

At first glance, it’s a visualization. It represents parks, forests, rivers, and lakes in Berlin, Germany. But then it invites you to touch it, and the map nudges you closer to the real thing.

The mossy-viz idea seems to have begun when Sebastian Meier sought a more sensual experience than he could give with an ordinary map. Meier, who works at at the Interaction Design Lab, part of the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam, Germany, begins his explanation this way.

Most visualizations use the two-dimensional plane of paper or screens, even when visualizing spatial (three-dimensional) data. Green Berlin explores the opportunity space of tangible artefacts, created with rapid prototyping techniques, in this case a laser cutter. Since humans are multi-sensory beings, the physical, the haptic world gives us a certain sensation we cannot deny.

To make a mossy map, you need data (Meier got his from OpenStreetMap), a laser cutter, Photoshop, and a few other things.

Read more here. Instructions here.

Extra credit question: What’s the term for a map that’s more than visual? Should we call it a “viz,” the term that Tableau marketing people popularized years ago?