Santiago Ortiz is the data visualization specialist who created a brilliant way to view the stars through a web browser. He’s also a Lost fanatic. “I’m the single human being I know that wasn’t disappointed with the End,” he writes. And so in an extreme labor of love, Ortiz created Lostalgic, a novel series of visualizations that retell the entire Lost story.
Lostalgic is a destination site with a few components. On the main page, you can see a massive tree of gray squares. Zoom in, and you realize they represent every scene and line of dialogue from Lost. Click your up or down arrows, and you can skip to any of the 117 episodes in the series.
Toggle over to the “graph,” and you’re met with a spinning atom-like view of the connections between the characters from that episode. Click over to the “matrix,” and you can see a grid of the “hidden connections,” the unknowns, occurring between the characters. And finally, make your way to “reenactment,” and you can simply watch the whole series play out line by line, as character thumbnails play out their dialogue.
“I think the ultimate motivation is to continue enjoying something that has already finished. Lostalgia…. On the other hand is a research about how information visualization can be used to tell stories,” Ortiz tells us. “That idea (infoviz as storytelling tool) is not new at all, but in this project the use of storytelling is much more obvious because it’s actually a story re-telling (with summit in the view mode called 'reenactment’).”
Ortiz’s project represents nothing less than a Herculean attempt to organize an absurd, and ultimately senseless pile of information. Every complicated connection is represented. And I couldn’t help but wonder, how could Ortiz possibly have tackled the sheer scale involved here? The answer? Wikipedia. Err. Lostpedia. The scripts were available online. And after developing some parsing code, Ortiz could automate a lot of the analysis.
“For the connections: it’s simply text analysis, measuring the characters’ co-occurrences,” he explains. “If two characters appear in the same dialogue, they have a connection for the episode, if they appear on the same episode they have a general connection. Then it’s about counting co-occurrences to obtain relations weights.”
The only problem with Lostalgic might be its timing. Lost already stole countless hours of my life. No matter how brilliant Ortiz’s analysis, JJ Abrams is not sucking me back into a circle of conspiracy that ultimately had no explanation. (Ugh, I’m furious just typing this.)
Luckily, Ortiz sees larger application for Lostalgic, presenting the possibility that its code could be applied to other TV shows—even teasing that, when coupled with video analysis, Lostalgic could develop these interactions directly from footage (without any scripts at all). Then again, this guy liked the ending of Lost. So I’m not sure we can trust anything he says anymore.