Hidalgo, César A., Bailey Klinger, Albert-László Barabási, and Ricardo Hausmann. 2007. See also The Product Space map from Phase I of Places & Spaces.

Call for Macroscope Tools for the Places & Spaces: Mapping Science Exhibit (2016)

Background and Goals

The Places & Spaces: Mapping Science exhibit was created to inspire cross-disciplinary discussion on how to best track and communicate human activity and scientific progress on a global scale. It will soon have three components: (1) physical exhibits that enable the close inspection of large-scale maps in public places such as science museums and libraries as well as at conferences; (2) novel, interactive macroscope tools that let the layperson explore the structure, dynamics, and beauty of science and (3) the online counterpart (http://scimaps.org), which provides easy access to zoomable maps and online interactive visualizations, their descriptions and their references, and information on their makers.

While Phase I of Places & Spaces introduced the power and utility of science mapping to many, it has also raised new questions: How can we demonstrate the power of data analysis and visualization techniques not only to plot static data but to monitor and support science as it evolves over time? How can we improve data visualization literacy globally and for all ages? How can we empower individuals to make their very own maps? Phase II of the exhibit aims to address these questions by shifting the focus of the exhibit from maps to macroscope tools that anyone can use to explore data to gain insights.

The term macroscope was first coined in 1979 by Joël de Rosnay in a book entitled The Macroscope: A New World Scientific System [1]. In it, he observes that a current challenge for humanity is its constant confrontation with the infinitely complex. “We are confounded,” he asserts, “by the number and variety of elements, of relationships, of interactions and combinations on which the functions of large systems depend.” To meet the challenges posed by the abundance, diversity and complexity of information, de Rosnay proposes the macroscope, a tool “not used to make things larger or smaller but to observe what is at once too great, too slow, and too complex for our eyes.”

Phase II of the Places & Spaces exhibit will invite and showcase interactive visualizations—exemplars of de Rosnay’s macroscope.

The “Macroscope Phase” of the exhibit is devoted to tools that

  • demonstrate the power of data analysis and visualization techniques not only to plot static data but to interact with science,
  • empower individuals to make their very own science maps, and
  • help improve data visualization literacy globally and for all ages.

Macroscopes should be targeted to the exhibit’s main audience, which includes both scholars interested in understanding the landscape of science in order to analyze and forecast where science is going and the educated layperson who is interested in making sense of big data. Currently our audience is global, primarily between the ages of 18-65, and college educated, with a large portion in academia.

Exemplar macroscopes comprise The Product Space interactive display (top of page), Illuminated Diagram display (below, left) that is an integral part of the physical exhibit, or the AcademyScope interactive touch panel or online tool (below, right).

The Illuminated Diagram features a geographic map and a science map controlled by a touch panel, which allows users to learn what areas of science are producing the most publications, and where in the world this research is coming from. Learn more here.

AcademyScope is an 55" interactive display that allows for hands-on exploration of thousands of National Academies Press publications. It has since been adapted into an online tool to give National Academies Press website visitors a new way to explore their library. Learn more here.

Places & Spaces is a 20-year effort. Phase I started in 2005 and added 10 new maps each year, resulting in 100 maps total in 2014. Phase II starts in 2015 and it will add 3-5 new macroscopes each year through 2024.

Themes for the upcoming iterations/years are:

  • 11th Iteration (2015): Macroscopes for Interacting With Science
  • 12th Iteration (2016): Macroscopes for Making Sense of Science
  • 13th Iteration (2017): Macroscopes for Forecasting Science
  • 14th Iteration (2018): Macroscopes for Economic Decision Makers
  • 15th Iteration (2019): Macroscopes for Science Policy Makers
  • 16th Iteration (2020): Macroscopes for Scholars
  • 17th Iteration (2021): Macroscopes as Visual Interfaces to Digital Libraries
  • 18th Iteration (2022): Macroscopes for Kids
  • 19th Iteration (2023): Macroscopes Showing Trends and Dynamics
  • 20th Iteration (2024): The Future of Macroscopes

Submission Details

Interactive online and desktop tools designed for small (e.g., handheld) and large (tiled wall) devices are welcome. Web based tools are preferable. Each macroscope should be fully functional for at least two years. For each macroscope in the exhibit, a video will be recorded to document and archive its unique interactivity and utility—even after the original code does not run any more.

Each entry must be submitted by February 29, 2016, and needs to include:

  • Title of macroscope tool
  • Author(s) name, email address, affiliation, mailing address
  • Copyright holder (if different from authors)
  • Link to online site that features the macroscope tool or to executable code. Both should come with detailed instructions on how to read, analyze, visualize data and how to interact with the user interface
  • Description of work: insight needs addressed, data used, data analysis, visualization techniques applied, and main insights gained (100-300 words)
  • References to relevant publications or online sites that should be cited
  • Links to related projects/works

Entries should be submitted via EasyChair by clicking here. Enter author info, a title, and submit all other information via the ‘Abstract’ field.

Review Process

All submissions will be reviewed by the exhibit advisory board. Submissions will be evaluated in terms of

  • Scientific value—quality of data collection, analysis and communication of results in support of clearly stated insight needs. Appropriate and innovative application of existing algorithms and/or development of new approaches.
  • Value for decision making—what major insight does the macroscope tool facilitate and why does it matter? Is the tool easy to use and are the visualizations easy to understand by a general audience? Does it empower and encourage viewers to learn more about science and technology?

Final Submission

Authors of winning entries will be contacted in March and invited to submit final entries by May 31, 2016. Each final entry should consist of:

  • Title of macroscope tool
  • Author(s) name, email address, affiliation, mailing address
  • Link to online site that features the macroscope tool or link to executable code.
  • Official macroscope tool description (200 words) including detailed instructions on how to read, analyze, visualize data using the tool and how to interact with the user interface
  • Ten high resolution screen shots
  • Biographies for all authors (about 100 words each)
  • High resolution portraits of all authors that are no smaller than 360 x 450 pixels, or 1.2" x 1.5" at 300 dpi. Larger is always better since we can always crop them down to our specific needs for both print and web.
  • Signed copyright and reproduction agreement

Authors are welcome to use the expertise and resources of the exhibit curators and designers. The macroscopes are expected to be ready for display by October, 2016.

Important Dates

  • Submit initial entries: February 29, 2016
  • Notification to mapmakers: March 31, 2016
  • Submit final entries: May 31, 2016
  • Iteration ready for display: September 30, 2016

Exhibit Advisory Board

  • Gary Berg-Cross, Spatial Ontology Community of Practice (SOCoP)
  • Bob Bishop, ICES Foundation
  • Kevin W. Boyack, SciTech Strategies, Inc.
  • Donna Cox, Illinois eDream Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Bonnie DeVarco, Media X, Stanford University
  • Sara Irina Fabrikant, Geography Department, University of Zürich, Switzerland
  • Marjorie Hlava, Access Innovations
  • Peter A. Hook, School of Library and Information Science, Wayne State University
  • Manuel Lima, Royal Society of Arts, Microsoft Bing, VisualComplexity.com
  • Deborah MacPherson, Accuracy&Aesthetics
  • Lev Manovich, Computer Science, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • Carlo Ratti, Professor and Director of SENSEable City Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Eric Rodenbeck, Stamen Design
  • André Skupin, Professor of Geography, San Diego State University
  • Moritz Stefaner, Freelance Designer
  • Stephen Uzzo, New York Hall of Science
  • Caroline Wagner, Battelle Center for Science and Technology Policy and John Glenn School for Public Affairs, Ohio State University
  • Benjamin Wiederkehr, Founder, InteractiveThings.com

Please feel free to send any questions you might have regarding the judging process to Katy Borner (katy@indiana.edu) and use the subject heading “Macroscope Inquiry.”


[1] de Rosnay, Joël. 1979. The Macroscope: A New World Scientific System. New York: Harper & Row
[2] Heylighen, F. 2011. “The Macroscope", a book on the systems approach. Accessed November 5, 2015. http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/macrbook.html.

Acknowledgements: This exhibit is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-0238261, CHE-0524661, IIS-0534909 and IIS-0715303, the James S. McDonnell Foundation; Thomson Reuters; the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center, University Information Technology Services, and the School of Library and Information Science, all three at Indiana University. Some of the data used to generate the science maps is from the Web of Science by Thomson Reuters and Scopus by Elsevier. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.