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Wall of War

GDES Independent Study, VCU Richmond

Faculty leader

Lauren Thorson, Designer ­In ­Residence

Student participants

Dylan Halpern, Matt Hill, Tommy Petet

Wall of War was an independent study that facilitated the creation of a 10’x85’ data visualization of the 450,000+ events in the Iraq and Afghan War Logs from Wikileaks. In 2010, Wikileaks released data on the events of the conflicts as catalogued by US troops. Entries range from the gory outcomes of war to mundane events, such as those in the realm of finance. This data was translated into graphic icons, and each event was presented as a cell in an enormous grid. Icons followed a strict grid system and content schemes which kept all 200+ forms consistent. These icons translated the complex machinations of war into simple graphic form, and in the final visualization they became nearly typographic.

Colors along the vertical registers of the print represented the months in which the events occurred—red for the summer and blue for the winter. The colors illustrated the density of events and the increased amount of data being collected over time. In addition to the main printed visualization, six posters hung in the center of the room, an online iteration of the data and presentation was created, and an iOs app that can “decode” the visual symbols was developed. The main aim of the project was to understand the information and data. We aimed to create a piece that at once explored the unprecedented data set available through formal translation, iterated upon what data visualization can be, and to create a multi­modal exhibition.