Take some standard tools for graphing data. Add the power of three-dimensional printing. Result: Data rendered not as a graph or chart, but as an object. A new frontier in the art of representing information, where it’s turned into something not only comprehensible and beautiful, but touchable—an intellectual tool that might double as a household tool as well. That seems to be the goal of Matthew Epler, a filmmaker and artist who has transformed Republican primary polling data into a set of butt plugs.
The shape of each of Epler’s silicon objects is determined by Gallup’s voter approval ratings for a particular GOP candidate. Each plug’s height represents time, beginning on December 10, 2011 at the bottom and ending on April 1, 2012 (or sooner, if the candidate dropped out) at the top. Maximum possible width (an ample 2.84 inches) corresponds to 100 percent approval, so as you go up each plug it expands and tapers to reflect the ups and downs of voter sentiment. My illustration, from Epler’s website, shows the ever-expanding Romney dildo and the wacky Santorum item. (Maybe Dan Savage can invent a use for it?) The other candidates’ data produced shorter, thinner, rather more plausible plugs (except maybe Ron Paul, whose record is simply … intimidating).
I admit, it’s a niche item. But the notion of data-as-sculpture is pretty intriguing.