"America Graph Fleeting" Again
MAT 200A, 2018


Our assignment was to take a media art and technology project that has already been created and reimagine it. I found my idea on The Recode Project, which is website trying “to preserve computer art by translating it into a modern programming language (Processing).” In 1971, Geoffrey Dutton created “America Graph Fleeting,” which are 3D maps showing US population growth from 1790 to 1970. This was also the first holographic thematic map. Dutton was a research associate of Harvard’s Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis where he used the laboratory’s ASPEX (3D data perspectives) program to create the visualizations. This project is considered the beginning of what would become modern Geographic Information Science.

Figure 1. Screenshots of Dutton’s Project


The project I am presenting is my version of Dutton’s “America Graph Fleeting.” I recreated the project using Processing and expanded the dates from 1790 to 2010. Just l ike Dutton’s, my recreation is in a 3D space, but show on a 2D screen, while Dutton was demonstrated in a holographic space. The data is represented in a 3D digital mesh, which also differs from Dutton’s work.

Figure 2. Top view of my project


I started this project by collecting the population of each state from the Wikipedia site “List of U.S. states by historical population.” Then I used a geocode add-on in google sheets, which converted each of the states names into longitude and latitude, so that I could properly map each state into their proper location. To create a similar texture to Dutton’s original work, I used Lee Byron’s Mesh Processing Library. As the mesh changes, it represents the different years of the U.S. population. The blue color represents the beginning size of the population in 1970 and as it grows the red appears showing the most current population data through 2010. The white dots at the bottom represent each different state and the red dots move up depending on the population size of that year. The toggles on the side allow the user to rotate the object in the X, Y, and/or Z axis. Also, on the side is a speed slider which allows the user to represent how fast they want the data to be moving. The bottom label tells the year of which population is being shown.

Figure 3. Closer look at Dutton’s texture style

Figure 4. My texture using the mesh style

3.     Results

The results of my project do not exactly replicate Dutton’s work, but I believe it still shows a similar purpose and effect by using the advancements of technology today. Dutton shows the dramatic increase in population throughout the United States and in my project one can continue to see this dramatic increase through 2010. One can see the slow processing of the first states on the east coast being populated and then quickly at the end all the lines jump up really high noticing the peaks especially in states such as California, Texas, Florida, and New York. Also, similar to Dutton’s work, which rotates in the hologram in the Z axis, I included different icon’s which allow the user rotate the object in the X, Y, and/or Z axis.

4.     Conclusions

With the advancements of technology today, since when Dutton created his work, I was able to include user interaction. The original piece rotated around in a hologram on the Y axis; my project allows the user to rotate the object in the X, Y, and Z axis. I believe this gives the user a better look at the data from all different angles. Also, the user is able to change how fast or slow the data is moving over time, while Dutton’s project had only one rate. In the future, I believe the next step would be creating 3D printed moving version, which would make an even more immersive environment between the user and the data.

Figure 5 & 6. Different angles that the user can rotate the object.


Ariella Gilmore 2018 - Santa Barbara, CA