There are questions Eric Fischer wrestles with in his head, mysteries of movement he longs to understand. Why do people of a certain race live in some places and not others? Why do people vacation in one type of environment but live in another? Why do people choose to walk? Why do people drive cars? Why do people write about some locations and photograph others, abandon certain parts of towns and flock to others? Fischer, 38, tries to tease out the answers in the meticulous way of a computer programmer — following data to make sense of human motivations.
He never expected his private musings to turn into a national art sensation, but his maps of data points, uploaded to his photo-sharing Flickr account, have been lauded by art blogs, imitated by the New York Times and now hang in the Museum of Modern Art.
Fischer creates the maps by mining such sources as U.S. Census data, Flickr photographs and tweets. Flickr and Twitter both have options to show a person’s location, called geotagging. Fischer plots the data and geotags in colored dots on maps using a computer program he wrote. The resulting patterns yield visual galaxies of information.