Self-Portrait in Data

Our assignment last week for Crafting with Data was as follows:

“Self-Portrait: Data is factual information; science finds its story. But data isn’t only about science so we can turn that on its head. Find data for your own story. Create a self-portrait, using data.”

I thought this would be a cinch, as I keep somewhat obsessive records about a lot of stupid stuff. However, I underestimated the inconsistency of my recordkeeping, and the difficulty of presenting awkward data in some coherent fashion, so when the fab Nicholas Felton came to talk to our class and see what we’d done, I had nothing yet to show. Bummer. But here’s what I finally came up with.


Self-Portrait in Data: Foods

To give you some perspective on how poorly I eat. These are servings, over the course of September 2009. Data came only from my diary, in which some days are blank and others obviously incomplete. But I think the overall gist is accurate. To wit: I had cheese about every three days, less than one serving of fruit or vegetables per day, and more than one dessert per day, much of it cake.

Mmmm, cake.


Self-Portrait in Data: Beverages

I do much better with drinking than with eating, especially if you consider that I rarely remember to keep track of glasses of water—it’s my favorite beverage, and I definitely drink more of it than is shown here. Data came only from my diary, in which some days are blank and others obviously incomplete. So, according to my crappy records, I had only thirty-nine eight-ounce servings of water over the course of September 2009; I’d guess the real figure is at least three times that. The tea counts—38 black, 11 green, 4 herbal—are probably also way too low. Everything else is probably pretty accurate.

I know that I had exactly three beers, for instance (two bottles of Brooklyn Brown and a can of Murphy’s Stout), and I can’t have had more than three glasses of wine, because it was on the same evening as two of the beers—at a wedding—and I would have fallen down if I’d had more. Cheap date.

Update, 9/10

Rob wanted to know why I made this a pie chart. I guess the reason was that I felt that the relationship of each part to the whole was the most important; I was thinking in percentages, and a pie chart is, for me, the most intuitive way to visualize percentages. Which probably just means my vocabulary of types of charts is too limited.


Self-Portrait in Data: Social
(Click for a bigger image.)

Here are my interactions with friends and family during the month of September 2009. I was surprised that face-to-face interactions outweighed all others, since I feel like I hardly ever see anybody, but I think the e-mail numbers would have kicked face-to-face’s ass had I not gone to a wedding where I knew a lot of people.

The height of each block represents days of interaction (DoI). That is, if I exchanged a dozen e-mail messages with Elisabeth on Monday and three on Tuesday, and also on Tuesday I got two from Jack, it counts as three DoI: Elisabeth x 2 + Jack x 1.

The width of each block represents the number of people I interacted with using the method in question. There were seventy-six people altogether; I met thirty-one face to face, and only one sent a note through LinkedIn. Four people called, texted, or left Flickr comments.

This data came from my diary, from copies of DMs in my e-mail account, and from Twistory, which shows all the tweets I sent to people on my Google Calendar. I did not have the patience to page back through all the actual Twitter messages, so I may have failed to count some tweets that were sent to me. I delete most text messages from my phone upon reading them, so those are noted only when I knew I exchanged some—e.g., when I was coordinating with friends about wedding transportation, and when Elisabeth was visiting New York (yay!). I think I counted Flickr comments on only one of my two accounts; oops.

Update, 9/10

So, in class on Thursday, people seemed to feel that the way I’d presented this data was . . . misleading? Not sure that’s the right word. In particular, Rob had trouble with the notion of Days of Interaction, I think. People would rather have seen real quantities of e-mail and so forth, separated into in/out? Yes, I’d like to see that, too, but I didn’t want to spend a million hours gathering the data; as it was, this took me more time than I’ve spent on any other homework so far this semester. And probably it should be a double-bar chart instead of using the number of people in each category to influence the area of the bar.

I felt when I made this that it wasn’t the right sort of chart to represent this information, but to me it’s meaningful enough. It tells me that I see a lot more people than I think I do, and that I really ought to get rid of my land line, now that I’ve managed to get Mom to call my Google Voice number 99 percent of the time. I expect the SMS numbers will start going up, now that I’m using a phone with a keyboard; it was just too slow before, and I’d sometimes get halfway through a message and then delete it and just call, though I hate talking on the phone.


So, I’m a near-teetotaler on the verge of getting scurvy who mostly stays in touch with people electronically.

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