A Stranger to Words

Web-based interactive system

A Stranger to Words (2013) is a web-based data visualization consisting of both computer graphics and a database. It is aimed to be an interactive system that uses dynamic information to explore the perspective of learning a second language. Inspired by personal learning experience, I visualized a huge data set expressing the curve of how I understood words. The observation will not only be a text performance, but also an approach to how I reflected my family, language and cultural mentality. By visualizing language and personal interpretation, the project provided novel insights into communication and reveals new perspectives on reading.

Learning English causes heavy pressure for children in Asia. In my country, Taiwan, parents view English ability as one of the most important intelligence of children. I have witnessed countless friends, including myself, struggling against language in order to get a better chance for living.
Now I look back and realize that tedious learning experience has become my source of inspiration. The data of ‘A stranger to Words’ is created based on my previous daily report of unknown words from newspapers or articles. It is unique and original because I generated and collected all of them by myself. My goal of this work is to unfold personal sentiments of struggling and accomplishment to the public through art metaphor.

The graph consists of 4,525 nodes and 17,648 edges from 23,358 words I recorded from October 2012 to February 2013.
Node = words I read or word’s properties
Edge = A word’s connection to its properties
Node size = Degree = number of connections
Node Color = Modularity = the group to which each word belong
Each word has four properties: Known / unknown, letter length, syllable length and frequency of occurrence which are all elements affecting people learning English. For example, the word “People” will connect to the node of “Known” (I knew the word), the node of “Occurrence 3” (It appeared 3 times totally), the node of “Length 8” (8 letters) and the node of “Syllable 2”. The size of a node in the graph is determined by the number of nodes/words to which it is connected, with bigger circle indicating more connections.

The data was processed by Excel programming at first, generating particular ID and assigned serial number. Then the huge data set was imported into Gephi visualization platform for patterning shape and color. Finally, the graph was rendered with the JavaScript library sigma.js and coded in Dreamweaver for web-based interaction.

1. Zoom in to enlarge the network to see words clearly
2. Roll over any node of word, it will show 4 line of their properties.
3. Roll over the node of property, it will show all the words which own this trait.

This project visualizes my story about learning language. It’s been discovered how I study, what I read, even how I think. Through this complicated graph, it evolves a great diversity of transformations, creating a mesmerizing interactive visual experience in which the language and the line of connection work in unison to capture the viewer’s attention. Being a dyslexic, I have to face many difficulties but I’m happy to have this instinctive character because it’s part of me and make me create exciting artwork.Somehow, doing the project help to cure my soul and establish my confidence.
Meng Chih Chiang
Artist Email: meet1923@gmail.com

Meng Chih Chiang is an award-winning digital designer and creative thinker currently living and working in New York City, specializing in data visualization, web, UI/ UX and interactive media.

Meng was born in Pingtung, Taiwan. Due to the poverty, her family can’t support her to learn art, she has self-studied since she’s a child. In 2005, she graduated in the honor of the first place from art talented class of National Pingtung Senior High School where she received 3-years full scholarship. Meng was later accepted to National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei, major on Visual Communication Design, BFA as the recipient of Merit Scholarship. She actively explored to a great diversity of design and developed a new perspective on creative expression. Some of the highlights of her awards include: Quality Award in Taiwan Poster Award Contest, Honorable Mention in 16th Times Young Creative Awards—Art Design and Copywriting Category and Quality Award, 4th Andante Golden Box Award Contest—Package Design Category.

In 2009, Meng was worked as a web designer in SoundEra digi-tech. Inc. and Medialand digitech. Inc. focusing was on web design, mobile applications, and interactive installations with front-end programming skills. She has participated in the creative department on award-winning projects for clients such as The Glenlivet, Shiseido, KFC, AXE, EVA AIR, Ballantine’s, and Books. In 2011, Meng won Studying Abroad Scholarship, Ministry of Education, Taiwan to School of Visual Arts, MFA Computer Art in New York. Scholarships include Lab Assistantship Scholarship and Academic Excellence Scholarship at SVA. During the studying abroad period, she is financially independent that she never spent a penny from parents and was responsible for school tuition and living expense in New York totally by herself. She graduated from School of Visual Arts in 2013 with Paula Rhodes Memorial Award for exceptional achievement in Computer Art.