Inspiration: “Running the Numbers” by Chris Jordan

In my Social Impact by Design class today, Bruce showed us this website:

Here’s what Chris Jordan says about his work:

Running the Numbers looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning…

I was blown away by the visualizations, which are deceptively simple, brilliant concepts, and I believe must be quite difficult to realize. For example, the bottled water visualization, “Plastic Bottles, 2007” shows 2 million plastic bottles, which is the amount consumed in the U.S. every 5 minutes. For me, this is validation of why I chose my thesis topic and this particular case study.

But I would love to know: how do people find out about this site or visualize these works? What sort of impact does Jordan’s work have? Are people’s reactions emotional? Do they get an “ah-ha” or “epiphany” moment? Will someone change their behavior as a result of viewing this work?

Below is a screenshot of “Plastic Bottles” but the real impact is going to the site and clicking on the image to zoom in.

2 million pastic bottles, "Plastic Bottles" 2007 by Chris Jordan

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