Space balls

January 4, 2007




“Oh shit. There goes the planet.” At top, the awesomely popular Sony Bravia advertisment, titled Balls, featuring lots of them in ambient migration down the streets of San Francisco. At middle, the YouTube viral minute appropriately named Reno Ballon Race. And at bottom, one part in a series of ads from the new Nike campaign for the Juice golf ball. The commercial shows two lab technicians launching a Juice golf ball through a gumball dispenser.

While the Sony and Nike are both advertisements, the Reno Balloon Race is a home-made time lapse video. I’ve used screenshots above to make the point, but the meme is actually about the fascination of particles in motion – a fractal dance. I’ve included links to the three videos below, it is interesting to watch how they each play out differently. Looking for more? There’s even a space balls installation (don’t let the static shots fool you, it moves too via fans in the room).

I’d hazard a guess that space balls is a visual meme that hooks something in the popular unconscious. Maybe a good clue is WeFeelFine. Yes, you probably already know, the site tracks and visualizes the emotions of people around the world by searching blog entries for the words “I feel”. One way of visualizing the data is by assigning each person/emotion to colored ball, with about 1500 bouncing around the screen at any one time. My screenshot is below, try it for yourself if you haven’t yet. I find it particularly interesting that the WeFeelFine site caps the number of particles at 1500 – as if that’s the sweet spot for what we can and wish to process visually on the screen. The balls-in-space method of data visualisation seems to make intuitive sense. We identify with it and project ourselves into it easily, almost as if it were an abstract, collective self-portrait.


Below 1, Sony Bravia Balls, view the high res here. Below 2, Reno Ballon Race. Below 3, Nike Juice Gumball ad, view more here.


2 Responses to “Space balls”

  1. tlapse Says:

    And then there is this spoof of the Sony Bravia ad..

  2. Iris Weaver Says:

    Thank for making this valuable information available to the public.

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