A week of friends
Data in our friends?
At week 25, we decided to share with each other an important part of our lives: our friends. But how could we use data to describe them to the other person?
I started this week survey with a diary-like approach, I wrote down what came to my mind about the people I feel are the closest to me, and about how I would have liked to describe my relationship with them to Stefanie, if we were having a drink together.
In my life, I moved to different cities, and in 2012 I moved to a different country (and continent!); as a matter of fact I lost touch with some of my dearest friends from the past and I made new friendships along the way.
In my very qualitative writing I mentioned people from various moments of my life, friendships of different kind: men and women to whom I talk about disparate topics and with whom I share diverse part of my self. What combines them is actually the fact that I care about them, a lot, I do really care about their lives as if they were my family!
The data drawing
Following my writings, I represented 15 friends of mine, the closest ones. I didn’t want to do any “ranking”, but rather giving Stefanie a general overview of my relationships with them.
I drew my friends as data-flowers, each one is positioned on the layout of the postcard according to 3 parameters:
- how long have we known each other for?
- how often do we text / meet?
- when was the last time we’ve met in person?
I used the temporal dimension as the primary one because it really renders the kind of relationships I am describing: friends from the past I regularly am in touch with, new friends I met in the US and who are part of my daily lives, close buddies who I care about but for whom different reasons I don’t hear from very often.
I then added some basic ‘demographic’ attributes to help Stefanie build her identikit of my friends: are they men or women? are they Italian or American? Did we work together? Are they in a relationship or single? And - most importantly: would I call them if I were in serious trouble?
The petals of the flowers then, with they dimensions and colors, represent the kind of topics we mainly talk about: our jobs, our past, our feelings, our daily lives, (gossips…!) and so on.
I connected those friends who know each other with straight lines, to give Stefanie a picture of my friends’ network.
Oh! and I also indicated who of them she met as well!
***Last bit of information: there is their name initial on the bottom of the stem! (hey my friends - do you see yourself in my postcard? :)) ***
As her week 24’s card, Stefanie’s first friends postcard never got to me, she has to re-draw it and re-send it (sorry about that Stef!) some weeks later.
I have been sooo curious about her friends’ postcard for all the time I was waiting for it!
It is a topic I have been really eager to explore.
As for now, I haven’t received it yet, so Stefanie sent the digital version to me a few hours ago.
As expected, I spent almost half an hour looking at it, and smiling!
(and I am so happy she drew me on her postcard :D).
This is one of these weeks that I find very insightful, and imaginative!
I am picturing her friends in my minds now, because Stefanie’s card is so detailed, and she combined several and different aspects of her relationship with those people! Thank you Stef, this was so good!!
Stefanie and I had a different approach in surveying out friends: I focused on the ones I feel really close, like family, while she included a broader range of pals.
While writing the notes on this postcard (at week 38, and more than 10 weeks after I drew the postcard), I couldn’t help by thinking that I would love to add Stefanie to my close-friends data drawing!
It feels strange because we’ve only met 3 times in person, but she is so present in my life now, I think of her so often!
Now, I really believe this IS a friendship: we passed from being acquaintances to collaborators, and then, as I see to being “friends friends”, in a way.
I feel she is so close to me, and we made it through our data-drawing correspondence!
I love you Dear Data!
This was a week of surveying our friends, and the most challenging part was clarifying my internal criteria for how I decide whether someone is my friend or not.
The definition of a friend is quite complex, as how do you define a friend in the technological age, where a friend can be someone who lives in another country, or someone you’ve never met in real life, but know in a digital space, either over email or on social media?
Or how does one define a friend where you’ve only met a few times, but are in contact very regularly through sending weekly data postcards to them?
As you can see, it gets complicated, particularly because physical proximity doesn’t necessarily mean a close friendship. As a starting point, I created a list of criteria defining what a friend was, then also thought about the different roles that these friends had in my life.
I enjoyed this week, as there’s nothing nicer than being reminded of all the lovely, talented, and intelligent people that you know. This week was a reminder of all the great people that I’ve met over the past few years, and in particular, while living in London. I’ve got a good crew here that I’m proud to know.
Also, I’ve that many of my connections are lived in a digital space where email, social media, video chats, and messaging create friendships that don’t feel any less real for being lived virtually as opposed to physically, and I ‘see’ these friends more often than friends who live in London. For example, Giorgia is more present in my life than friends of mine who live only 10 minutes away: we message and email each other daily, and often chat over video. This is such a present, everyday friendship that it’s easy to forget that we’ve only met three times in person!
This was a challenge to draw. I drew and re-drew this card, as drawing a radial diagram where all of the ‘branches’ of the tree diagram were evenly-spaced is beyond my drawing skill, and I ended up posting a card with a drawing that I was happy with, but still wasn’t quite right: the branches still weren’t evenly-spaced, but whatever, I needed to accept these imperfections and just send the card to Giorgia.
So I posted this troublesome card, and then (of course) this card went missing. The universe is against me! (Or, ok, it’s probably not the universe, but the fact that I always run out of room and start to write in the no-go zone on the postcard that actually is causing this problem)
However, when losing the card, I felt relieved. I took this an an opportunity to refine my drawing skill and make my card better (particularly since I didn’t want to just re-draw the same card, but try to enjoy the drawing process a little more by trying to build upon the previous design). However, I had the same problems: I still find it a challenge to draw evenly-spaced radial branches around a centre point. This must be some sort of special skill that an illustrator attains after drawing for one million hours or something, because it took me wasting multiple cards to even get something that would work. Illustrators, I bow down to you and
Finally, since I re-drew the card a couple months after the original, I noticed that even in this short time period, the group of people I consider my friends has evolved. I ended up adding a couple of other friends to this card, or downgrading / upgrading the quality of friendship for some of my friends as well. Some people are still friends, but are slowly becoming acquaintances. This card is definitely a snapshot of a moment in time and the people I care about in this moment as opposed to something fixed and unchanging.
Note: the second card still hasn't arrived! Fingers crossed it will soon.
Giorgia is able to draw cards that are so rich with data: she is able to plot data on multiple axes by hand. As someone who can’t even organise the back of their postcard without it getting incredibly messy, I find this impressive.
I like how Giorgia has categorised her friends, and how even friends she hasn’t seen for years still qualify as important. Also, it’s interesting to see that Giorgia keeps in touch with most of her friends relatively regularly using text message: another indication that physical presence in friendships is being superseded in many ways by meaningful digital interactions.