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Live from Pop!Tech: The Art of Giving Consumerism Stats Emotional Punch

Greetings from the beautiful Opera House in Camden, Maine, the site of Pop!Tech. Assuming my Wifi and laptop battery don’t fail me, I’ll be sending you highlights from this dynamic conference over the next couple of days. The artist Chris Jordan kicked things off this morning by showing us how he turns dry, abstract statistics about the impact American consumers have on the environment into something meaningful and emotional. “We can’t feel statistics,” he said. “And I want to feel it.”

Greetings from the beautiful Opera House in Camden, Maine, the site of Pop!Tech. Assuming my Wifi and laptop battery don’t fail me, I’ll be sending you highlights from this dynamic conference over the next couple of days.

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The artist Chris Jordan kicked things off this morning by showing us how he turns dry, abstract statistics about the impact American consumers have on the environment into something meaningful and emotional. “We can’t feel statistics,” he said. “And I want to feel it.”

So he takes jaw-dropping numbers – 130 million cell phones discarded every year, 11,000 jet trails created every eight hours – and conveys these quantities visually. The phones look like a black swirling sea. The jet trails looks like a blanket of snowflakes. He shows the New York City skyline transposed against the millions of reams of office paper we go through in a day to make the excess hit home. He even practices his version of pointalism, using 106,000 aluminum cans (which we go through every six seconds) to create Seurat’s masterpiece ” A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte.”

His work is at once beautiful and disturbing, and I can’t begin to do it justice. You have to visit Jordan’s web site to see for yourself.

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About the author

Chuck Salter is a senior editor at Fast Company and a longtime award-winning feature writer for the magazine. In addition to his print, online and video stories, he performs live reported narratives at various conferences, and he edited the Fast Company anthologies Breakthrough Leadership, Hacking Hollywood, and #Unplug

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