A week of our phones
Your phone is the secret box of your adulthood
Before the end of the project, we wanted to reveal what’s inside one of our most personal possessions: our Iphone. This is one of these week we define “surveys”, where we didn’t track activities or log in time based data, but we rather analyzed how our Iphone is organized only once during the week, as if we were taking a portrait of it.
Even though it can seem a pretty cold ‘topic’, the apps you have installed in your phone, how you organize them and how often you use them can tell a lot about yourself.
For example: which are the 4 apps that deserve to be on your dock?
As for me, I have Google Chrome, Phone (well yes I still use my Iphone to make phone calls), and of course Messages and Mail.
But also: which are the apps you keep on your main screen? Which are the ones you normally check more compulsively? What are the ones that have been sitting there since you’ve downloaded them but never used? (and this can tell a lot about our aspirational side).
I am an obsessive organizer, you already knew it
As I do for my belongings, I tend to keep my Iphone well organized, with my apps positioned according to some basic rules I set up:
- on the main screen I tend to have only the apps that I use daily,
- my social media apps stand within the macro folder “social”, so if I really want to check Facebook at least I have two clicks to perform,
- I like to fill only half of the space of my main screen with apps, thus leaving room between the last row of icons and the dock (yes this is a stupid visual idiosyncrasy of mine). Because of that I periodically need to downgrade some of them to the second screen (sorry!) when I download a new compelling one.
- the last row of my main screen is the most important for me, because it’s close to the dock and very easy to reach with my thumb. At the moment of the survey, the apps sitting there were Evernote, Notes and WhatsApp.
- I periodically re-arrange my apps with no real need: just because I like to think I am removing visual clutter and making better organizational choices.
- I only have two screens of apps, and on the second screen I relegate those I can’t cancel but don’t use (lots of default Apple apps that are impossible to remove) and those I am still not ready to delete.
- (and yes I am a bit neurotic for this all :-))
For the survey, I’ve made an estimate of how often I use them, I added details if the app was designed by a friend, if I used it for my data tracking during the year and if the app has been deleted in the past but I dowloaded back (indicating my uncertain relation with it!)
Let’s not talk about my data drawing
I have to say, I HATE THIS POSTCARD OF MINE. For some reasons I thought it would be nice to reveal to Stefanie what were the actuals app and thus I embraced a realistic illustration approach. But when I look at it I simply hate it: if I could redraw only one postcard of the whole set, it would definitely be this one!
This week was particular for Stefanie, I remember getting an email from her while she was panicking because - exactly in the week of “Phone survey” - an accident happened (which of course she will elaborate on) and her Phone died. Her postcard is a dedication to the memory of his dead-phone, I find it very romantic!
I loved to discover what is on her phone, she has game apps which I don’t, she has meditation apps which I don’t, she has fitness apps which I don’t (the default ones aside).
Towards the end
We here were at week 50 of Dear Data, the end was very close and foreseeable, as on the last mile of a long marathon (not that I have ever run one). I remember I was feeling a mixture of excitement / relief for the project to be completed, and an anticipated sense of void: after such an intense year of tracking and drawing it was practically impossible to imagine my weeks and my weekends with no Dear-Data obligations!
It turned out Dear Data is keeping ourselves busy even after its end, and I couldn’t be happier for all the exciting new directions this year-long beautiful collaboration is opening.
The benefits of embarking on side projects.
If Dear Data taught me one thing, it’s the importance of what can be called “un-necessary creating”, the importance of experimenting on making things when no client is judging you and when there’s none looking over your shoulder. You can try things, you can take risks and explore hunches, you ultimately get to do the kind do work that you want to, which is very satisfying.
We are all busy (I personally don't like the word busy), but I would encourage anyone to make (not "find" but “make”, as brilliant Maria Popova always says) a little of spare time for projects that are outside our day job.
We all have a passion for what we do, we're lucky we are in a pretty interesting industry, but we easily end up only making the work that helps to pay the rent, procrastinating personal ideas and projects to nobody-knows-when. I guess the most of us has a resolution list of things we want to do for ourselves - of course to me was a personal project to explore visual with data with - but we just have a hard time making the time for that.
I believe it’s just a matter of starting, and starting can be as simple as “I will go to a cafe and sit with my notebooks for an hour every Tuesday after work”. With Dear Data we’ve created a habit for our non-demand work, ti helped us staying prolific, producing more consistently and it opened up unexpected new and exciting directions.
I write this week in memory of my phone, which died a painful death this week…much like how my self-respect died in how I handled said death.
Get yourself settled, for here comes a particularly long and embarrassing tale, and a very public apology.
My phone has been instrumental to the making of this project, because I mainly gather data on my phone: no, I’m not using automatically-tracking applications, but instead I use the Reporter app and note-taking apps to gather my data manually. Also, photos of my process are on the phone as well (though it might not seem like it, as I never seem to take any, haha). So, while I do have some backups in place, I haven’t been very thorough at backing-up as of late, so every time I leave the house I’m playing a risky game with my Dear Data data.
This story begins on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon. My husband and I are going to meet friends at a graffiti competition/exhibition, and since the weather is so fine, we decide that cycling to the location (some dark, graffiti-filled tunnels near Waterloo Station) would be a nice way to travel.
We pack backpacks and cycle panniers, and prepare for the sunshine by putting on sunblock. My husband takes two clear, liquid sunblock sprays and decides to consolidate them into one bottle. I take this bottle, put on a bit of sunblock, then throw it into my backpack, throw my phone into my backpack, hop on my bike, and off we go.
It’s a warm day, but a lovely ride, and I’m excited to meet up with friends, have a pint, and wander through these graffiti tunnels. However, when we arrive at our destination and I got off my bike, I noticed that my back was wet.
Pulling off my backpack, I realise that sunblock has leaked through everything in my bag and all down my back, and pulling out the sunblock, I realised my husband didn’t put the spray nozzle on tight enough and it had worked itself loose, and then pulling out my phone, I realised that it was completely saturated with sunblock, with its screen turning a funny colours and going into a complete meltdown.
Right when this happened, I went into a complete meltdown as well.
I threw the sunblock spray onto the ground, yelled at my husband, blaming him for this leak, ran to the pub, tried to clean off all of the sunblock that had soaked through all of my things, trying to figure out if the phone would survive, but slowly realising that the phone’s innards could never survive after being doused in greasy, coconut-scented chemicals.
It was about this point that I realised that I might have completely lost much of my Dear Data photos and data, and my meltdown reached a new level.
I am ashamed to say that I had a very angry, crying, embarrassingly-public shout at my husband due to how distraught I was, both because I was worried I might have lost quite a bit of Dear Data work, that I had let Giorgia down for losing such a critical part of the project, that I would have to pay £500 for a new phone, and that all of this was happening because of something that was completely out of my control. I hate typing this, as it’s so embarrassing, but yes: for all of this, my husband bore the full brunt of my anger, tears and frustration.
Well. We didn’t go to this graffiti competition this day, as I was too worked-up, and too angry. We cycled back home so I could see what content of mine had actually backed up, and during the cycle ride back I tearfully-pedaled behind my husband, burning with frustration, feeling as though the world was against me.
We got back home, I whipped open my laptop and double-checked my photos, particularly the ones of Dear Data…. all safe. I double-checked a few other things… all safely backed up. The only thing that I lost of Dear Data was a week of data-gathering (next week), not ideal, but that was it. My anger was lessening, but I still had a £500 pound block of metal I would need to replace.
I wrote an emotional email to Giorgia, saying I couldn’t survey my phone properly until I could dry out my phone and see if it could be salvaged (still hoping, even though I knew the truth). I explained the situation, and mentioned how angry I was at my husband. She wrote back, reminding me that it actually wasn’t the end of the world, and telling me ‘please don’t be too hard on your husband!’… of course, she was right.
As my anger lessened, I began to feel incredibly remorseful at how I had reacted to this little loose sunblock cap, which wasn’t left loose out of malice, but was just an accident, and my husband was blamed for it all.
So started the beginning of many, many apologies to my husband, and lots of nervousness and apologetic, quiet tiptoeing around him, as I knew that I had been completely unreasonable. Thankfully, my husband forgave me, noting that I hadn’t been quite myself earlier in the day (which I wasn’t, I was worrying about work, Dear Data, and all the other things on my to-do list), and that this little incident seemed to be where all the bottled-up worry exploded.
I know this is a strange place to find love in a marriage, but this is where it is: love isn’t in over-the-top romantic gestures, but found when I am at my absolute worst and my husband sees me at this worst and forgives me.
A very public apology to my husband: I’m so sorry for that ridiculous afternoon. Thanks for reminding me to laugh at my irrational grumpiness, and helping me remember that the world isn’t as bad as I sometimes make it!
(post-script: insurance paid for the phone, and I was able to buy a better phone than I had previously, so in all, this whole escapade ended very well… oh, I am kicking myself with embarrassment still)
Now, onto the postcard: I used a backup of my phone’s applications as my survey data, which is a pretty close representation of what was actually on my phone. (I’ll leave you to look at the card instead of writing more on this long post)
Giorgia’s postcard is a beautiful rendering of all the little app icons on her phone, and I see we share many apps (of course). My favourite part of the card are the tiny red dots that highlight that she received a notification within this app while drawing the postcard, which is lovely: a digital moment that is completely ephemeral and often never recorded has now been permanently captured on paper, highlighting one of the main reasons I’ve loved this project through these years: we capture and collect moments that are fleeting for paper posterity.