I recently attended the TEDxBoston conference. If you’ve never been, I encourage you to go.  This year’s conference was overflowing with both people and ideas.  For me, it’s a vacation from the day-to-day, an opportunity to find new inspiration, and a place to cross-pollinate ideas.  I never go to find more business, but rather to get better at what I do.

One presentation that I found particularly valuable was by Michelle Borkin, who explained her interdisciplinary approach to data visualization.  She brought together professionals from astronomy, who were working on how to get better 3-dimensional  pictures of objects in outer space, with radiologists, who were trying to get better 3-dimensional pictures of organs in the human body.  The results were both beautiful and amazing.

It would be easy to say “Outer space is very different from the human body, so it has no relevance to what I’m doing,” but she took the opposite approach and asked, “What are they doing that is similar to what I’m trying to do, and what can I apply from what they have already learned?” With all of the discussion around data generated on the internet, I kept wondering, during her presentation, what data visualization techniques can be taken from astronomy and radiology and applied to understanding consumers and influence.