A week of people
The data gathering
How much time do we spend alone during the week? How much time do we spend with people we know? And how many times we are just surrounded by complete strangers?
My data collection this week answered the main question “how many people do I see?” every hour for my 7 days.
(Well, I set an alert on my iPhone every hour to remind me to count people around me).
Besides, I complemented the data by noting down how many of them I knew, how many of them were italians (because I am always interested to see if I spend more time with Italians or with Americans); and what I (or we) was doing at the moment.
Oh! I also added a special mark whenever I was with somebody Stefanie knows as well, (because yeah I wanna keep on using my pink Muji pen to indicate things related to Stefanie and/or to Dear Data on the postcards!)
I noticed that (shame on me!) I am not very familiar with many of my coworkers at the New Inc, I can hardly tell most of their names :| .
And, on the other hand, I’ve been also struck by how often in New York you happen to be instantaneously catapulted in places where you’re surrounded by hundreds of people (just enter an Apple store when a new product has been released, for example).
This actually happens very often, I just never paid attention or counted the actual numbers!
The Data Drawing
I see my data drawing as two competing parallel lines: the people I knew and the people I didn’t, this is the main point of the postcards.
You can then go in depth and see more details about places, situations and Stefanie's friends.
p.s. its ’s nice to see how the postcards get to destination every time: sometimes they are perfect while some other times they are scuffed, crumpled, cut…and this time even "watered"!
It would be so cool to know what they have been trough during their travelling overseas :).
I don’t mind having this one so “melted”, it’s part of the game (but you can see how it looked like before the trip if you scroll down!)
Our data-driven existence
I very much liked to read Stefanie’s card on this topic: I wrapped my mind around the fact that I am getting to know her this way.
This week I was picturing her with people, trying to imagine what was going on, and how her week must have been.
I am adding up little pieces to my picture of her life every week.
This week (oh finally!) I’ve been starting to reflect on our data-driven existence. We live in a moment where personal data are proliferating and increasing in number and type, we have multiple apps that can detect and aggregate and visualize our data for us.
What I believe is that, to gain real meaning from these data sets, any self tracker should really focus and engage in a practice of sense-making, of interpretation of those numbers according to one’s personal story, behaviors and routine.
And with Dear Data we are trying to work on it: we like to think of Dear Data as a “personal documentary through data” more than a “quantified self project”. We think that collecting and aggregating personal data in these ways and touching multiple topics and aspects can provide snapshots of self-knowledge for ourselves and self expression towards the other person.
Since Giorgia and I both live in big cities, we are surrounded by people constantly, and we wanted to find a way of recording this.
Again, for this one I captured how many people were in my vicinity every hour on the hour, using the same method as last week, which meant that the same errors occurred as last week (using silent timers and checking them repeatedly has got to be the most useless data tracking method in the world and still I did it twice).
This week, I was actually around people more than I am normally: I share a studio with 3 people who are often not there, or I spend time at home ‘working’ from my kitchen table if I’m feeling too lazy to even make it to the studio.
However, this week was slightly different: on the card, you can notice the days that I worked from home, plus two days where I taught a workshop to 20-30 people, and then finally the conference with 100+ people that I spoke at on the Saturday.
I think what has surprised me is that actually I spend most of my time in smaller groups of people or on my own, which seems strange in a city of 8 million people. I guess this is mainly due to being freelance and walking to work: my commute is shorter, so I spend less time crammed against someone on an overpacked train than I used to.
However, this decrease in spending time in groups is also likely due to the fact that I’m becoming (slightly) more civilised, and instead of going out to bars and clubs with innumerable people all the time, I instead spend time with friends in smaller groups at people’s houses, or stay in with my husband.
But here’s my favourite data memory that is evident in the final drawn card: Friday evening I was incredibly reasonable and well-behaved and stayed at home to prepare for my conference talk while my husband went out to my friend’s house party.
I was alone in the house all night, then woke early to practice my talk, still alone in the house, and with a missing husband. Eventually I found him stumbling through our door at 7am, making a brief appearance before going up to bed and leaving me to prepare my talk! I'm pleased that there is a record of this unfair interaction in the data.
You can tell this card was influenced by the structure of the previous week's card where I simplified my data slightly. So again, I took my counts of people and put them into a slightly-haphazard-and-probably-not-the-best banding to simplify both drawing and understanding this information. Still, while I don’t mind this card, it’s not one of my favourites and I need to be more experimental with how I draw data for next week, as it definitely isn't as interesting as Giorgia's card.
Out of all of the cards that Giorgia has drawn, this is one of my favourites. I like the ‘tally marks’ that she’s used here to represent people… I’ve always had an interest in hand notation and old ways of manually tracking and counting things, so this way of representing data resonates with me.
I think Giorgia is just being kind when she says that she was able to discover something about me on my card, when she is much better at tracking meaningful data than I am! I discovered so much about her from such a simple dataset.
And, of course, this isn’t a design decision by Giorgia, but I like the splashes made by water / rain / who knows across this drawing, mainly because it leaves me trying to think about where it came from along the way. It surely must be London rain, so was it pouring down when my London postman unceremoniously jammed the postcard through my door’s mail slot? There’s something nice about how the cards carry not only a visual representation of our week but also a visual representation of their travels across the sea.