Via Worldchanging, "Information Visualization Is A Medium":
Information visualization is becoming more than a set of tools and technologies and techniques to understand large data sets. It is emerging as a medium in its own right, with a wide range of expressive potential.
Stamen's work in visualization and mapping is among the most high profile online today, with the live dynamic displays at Digg Labs and Cabspotting being just two of many examples.
The studio's approach is deeply pragmatic, always starting with real data and aiming to work with graphics on screen as soon as possible. Though all analysis is a work in progress, a project is usually finished when it shows something nobody has seen before, or builds a vocabulary for describing a system, or offers more questions than answers. And then the process begins again.
Worldchanging's write-up of the presentation adds this:
The idea is not to offer a search programme that would give you a way in but rather to give a map display as a way out for users to explore. It is not enough to simply analyzes and it is not enough either to simply entertain.
In Stamen's project there is always an editorial choice, their projects are not totally value free, they are more than just a pretty accumulation of data. They attempt to give people a way to access information they care about, to engage them in data and keep them interested.
See also "Coming Soon: Nothing Between You And Your Machine":
Last year...the arrival of the Nintendo Wii and the Apple iPhone began to break down the logjam in technological innovation for the way humans interact with computers.
Both devices extend the idea of directly controlling objects on the screen and blending that ability with visually compelling physics software that brings computer screens to life in new, immersive ways. With a Wii, a wave of the hand can slam a tennis ball in cyberspace; with the iPhone, a flick of a finger can slide a photograph across the screen like paper on a table.
The idea of directly manipulating information on a computer screen is almost as old computer graphics terminals, going back at least to 1963, to Ivan Sutherland’s Sketchpad drawing system he created at M.I.T. for his Ph.D. thesis. Since then, a thriving scientific and engineering discipline has sprung up around systems that bridge what was originally called the man-machine interface. There has been a broad exploration of pointing devices, alternatives to keyboards for entering information, voice-recognition technologies, and even sensors that capture and interact with human brain waves.
What is new is a convergence of more powerful and less expensive computer hardware and an inspired set of mostly younger software designers who came of age well past the advent of the original graphical user interface paradigm of the 1970s and ’80s.