Impure: a user-friendly visual programming language from Bestiario

On: October 30, 2010
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About Stefania Bercu
I'm a Sociology graduate from Bucharest, currently located in Amsterdam and doing a masters in New Media.


Last week, Barcelona/ Lisboa –based company Bestiario presented the audience of VisWeek 2010 with their latest information visualization programming language, Impure, an initiative to help democratize the Web by presenting Internet citizens with a flexible, easy to use tool to manipulate data and share knowledge.

Impure allows users to engage in creating info visualizations, by working with their own data sets or with data from sources available online, such as news feeds, social media streams, search results, images etc. What makes Impure special is that it does not require advanced programming skills, as its modular interface „allows non-programmers to work with information in a professional way and to explore complex bodies of data” by linking modules together, as opposed to typing in code. Users can visualize their data, process and mix it, set interactivity options for their audience and publish and share their work with the world. Although Impure is still very much a work in progress, its creators offer a wiki that contains articles explaining the mechanisms and modules it uses, guides to collect data from the Internet, to load data sets (by using an api to collect structured data from the internet or loading data from files)  or guides to visualize your Facebook or Twitter network .

The application allows you to quickly visualize your data simply by loading it or downloading it from the Internet and linking it to a visualization mode. The visualization methods you can choose from are dependent on the nature of your data, but one can get an immediate appropriate graphic representation of their information with minimal effort. Impure also offers modules for more complex processing of data sets. These modules are organized in five different color-coded categories, according to the function that each performs:

Data structures: they have no inlets, but only outlets- the source from which you can read the data contained inside the box on the black work canvas.

Operators: they have at least one inlet. They perform certain operations on the data (about 300 up to this date) and return the result in the outlet.

Visualizators: theylet users choose a visual representation for their data. Many visualizators allow some degree of interaction with the data, which makes for a more dynamic output.

Controls: allow users to interact with the space or perform more complex tasks (such as syntactic or semantic text analysis)

Apis: allow communication between different online information sources, such as Google, Twitter, Delicious, Flickr etc.

The application it is still in private alpha mode, as Andrew Vande Moere reports on On the 28th of October, Bestiario announced on their Impure twitter account that they were accepting invitation requests from interested users on the Impure website  and today they announced that they will start answering requests tomorrow. Hopefully, in a few days I will have access to my very own Impure account and will be able to do a follow up from an empirical perspective. Until then, I am still trying to find my way through Processing , in an attempt to educate myself in building interactive information visualizations.

Further links:

Impure Flickr photostream

Impure YouTube channel

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