Examples of Capturing Visual Data

Data analysts are those magical people who can read numbers in a way other people can’t. Or at least that’s how I see them as someone who used to work in a place where we heavily depended on data. As an editor, the data analyst would direct me to where I should focus more, and where the website is supposed to be headed and why.

But ask a data analyst how they do it and you probably won’t get a bunch of unrelated numbers, you would get a chart. If they’re creative enough, you can get some visual that explains what’s happening and what needs to happen without them ever saying a word.

Data visualization allows everyone to make sense of something, and to put several levels of data in a form that makes it interpretable. It’s as important as knowing the numbers, if I list every metric you need yo know and left, you would know the numbers, you’d have the data, but you wouldn’t know what to do with it. Visualizing it is more practical and more fun.

Below are some of my favorite data visualizing techniques I’ve seen so far:

1- The Life of a Typical American: By Tim Urban

If a person lives up to 90 years old, this is what their life will most likely look like in weeks, based on the average timing of major life events in the life of an ordinary American.

Seeing this info organized like that makes it more understandable, it establishes a main ground for other structures to be built.

life

2- The Middle East (good luck getting that one!)

David McCandless and UniversLab

And yet there are graphs that puts it into perspective how complicated something is, this one represents some kind of results obviously, but it is striving for a bigger point rather than inviting you to grab a pencil and follow the lines. (You can if you really want to)

mideast

3- Music Visualized

This is what music looks like. The lines moving from the center away represents the musical channel as it moves with time, different angles of the lines represent different frequencies. “The purpose was to create even more an aesthetically responding visualization with the music as an artist.” as the creator puts it.

bet

queen

This one shows us how great minds don’t actually think alike: 

greatminds

Imagine if I used this post to list all the data you learned about here in bullet point. wouldn’t be as attention-grabbing, would it?

We Tried, But It’s Viral Now

Virality. A word spell check still refuses to recognize, no matter how widely used it is now. “Viral” often refers to infection, disease. But now also refers to quickly spreading content, infectious content, if you will.

But such a word presumes that there is no control over the spread of content, that it just happens, which isn’t true for most cases. Henry Jenkins argues in Spreadable Media (p. 20) that when we share content we actively choose to spread such content to our contacts on social media, via email or even play it for someone, we carry that content outwards of our networks to other networks through sharing.

But how much choice do we really have in sharing those short funny videos for example? Can we articulate or explain why we do?

One example to measure our ability to answer such question to is the famous “Charlie Bit My Finger” video.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OBlgSz8sSM]

Back in 2007, a family in England posted the home video above. It’s a cute moment between brothers, three and one year olds. It was meant to be shared between family and friends, and it wasn’t until years later that views started doubling daily, until it became one of the most viewed videos on YouTube with more than 800 million views.

What happened?

People shared the video on every website, and they shared it because people where sharing it, and so on and so forth. No one knows who was “patient zero”, probably a famous website or a media outlet, that led to the video’s outbreak.

In an interview, the dad who posted the video commented on the videos popularity.

“I had to make a decision: Is this something that we accept is us and do something more with or is it something we just park and say, ‘That’s really nothing to do with us,’ and then everybody else will be exploiting it and making money from it?”

The thing is, he didn’t realize it wasn’t even his decision anymore. The video has simple gone viral and there was no control over it. Years later in 2015, the story is still going on, and people are wondering what happened to the Charlie Bit My Finger boys.

They have found fame, YouTube revenue and became part of our culture, in a way. Time’s magazine refers to  watching the video now as “nostalgic”, all based on something millions of us do everyday, record our kids doing something funny. No one can really list a formula other videos can follow to assure a similar success, it was just something that “went viral”.

I agree with Jenkins in how he explains the difference between virality and spreadability, but viral content isn’t necessarily commercial content desperately clutching to the advantage of public participation, even if that is the case lots of times, it’s only because when it works, it really does get uncontrollably viral, and there’s no explanation for it except that everyone thinks it’s “interesting” whether it is a toddler biting his brother’s finger, or a Korean pop song.

Networking For Good

How we network as individuals and within groups has changed with time and technologies, and with such change appear advantages and disadvantages that are being studied to determine how the future of networking would look like.

In the book Networked:The New Social Operating System, authors Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman discuss the three major revolutions that have transformed how we form social circles and interact within them: the networks revolution, the internet revolution, and the mobile revolution. The book also focuses on how this change has affected our networks as individuals, how we now approach our relationships with our families, friends, and work mates.

In this post, we take a look at two examples of how the new concept of networking can help us understand where bigger networks link together, where interactions doesn’t only take place within a network or from individuals to the surrounding few networks they belong in, but across networks to make it more possible to serve a bigger, mutual goal. One is a feature social networks have developed enough to offer, the other is a result of public collaboration across different networks.

1- Safety Check-in

After the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal in April 2015, Facebook offered the Safety Check feature to alert the noch! network of an individual who has his location set to an affected area that they are Bye fine.

Mobile phones would show a simple alert from Facebook that reads “You appear to be in an area affected by X disaster, are you safe?” and there would be two options “I’m safe” or “I’m not in the area”.

As rescuing efforts tried to free people from under the rubble among the rising deaths, it was an effective way to check on someone in the midst of chaos, and a quick way for users who were near all the distress to assure their loved ones, friends, families, and every other network they were part of that they were alright.

Google has also been working on a People Finder feature to locate an individual’s network in the aftermath of a disaster.

This addition to the functions of social networks show how the technological revolutions happening so far (the networking revolution, internet revolution, and mobile revolution) can be integrated to serve our interpersonal communication. They are here one step ahead of how our social intuition works, as they usually are. It relieves us from the worry of an additional task in a difficult time of emergency.

2- Crowdsourcing help on a large scale

Seven days ago, a picture tweeted by Icelandic journalist Gissur Simonarson went viral. The picture was of a Syrian refugee father selling pens on the streets of Beirut with his sleeping daughter on his arm.

After the great amount of support under the hashtag #BuyPens, and questions of how to locate this man and help him support himself and his children, a crowdsourcing campaign was launched to raise money for him with a goal of $5,000.

In 6 days, the campaign has raised over $178,000 so far and there’s still 8 days left. more than 6,700 people from all over the world donated through the website. The story has been picked up by news websites and blogs all over the world.

A common expression between commentaries and entries on this type of crowdsourcing is “gives me hope”. Social media has gathered people everywhere with all their differences under one giant umbrella of accessible information, and whenever something happens on that big of a scale that changes someone’s life or helps a cause, we are reminded that it isn’t social media itself that does damage when it happens, but how people interact within their networks on social media. Connections aren’t formed by the medium, but by the people.

In these ways, the three revolutions have transformed how we perceive information and interact with each other, whether it is within our small circle or with the more generic networks we are sharing with millions of other people.

Research Proposal: Is Extended Consumption of Social Media Linked to Anxiety Among Teens and Young Adults?

Instant connections. That’s what new age social media promises us; we will always be connected to each other, to strangers, to our networks, and to our ideas. But with Integrais the incredible rise of the use of digital social networks that took place in the last few years, people have come to rely more on their portable devices for social interactions, and both users and researchers are asking: have we reached the feeling of being more connected, or have we become more isolated?

Is the focused attention on self-promotion related to the rise of anxiety among teenagers and young adults? Or is it the motivation this generation needed to keep up with fast-rising competition? This is what this research strives to answer.

The number of American adults who own a smartphone has doubled in the 4 years between 2011 and 2015 according to a Pew Research report. Smartphones have become essential in how we do most of our daily activities, including chatting and texting with our friends and family, and posting on social media.

By taking a look at usage patterns and behaviors of internet users between adolescence and adulthood (13-25 years old), a better understanding about the ties between the two issues will develop. Whether a causation or correlation occurs between rise of social anxiety and depression among teens and adults, and the digitalization of social connection.

The subject of interactive behavior on social media sites has been discussed heavily during the past decade due to many factors:

  1. Type of information: What is being shared and discussed on social media and how it affects participants.
  2. Privacy concerns: When we post online, we contribute into a global record that is not easy to delete, our actions online have consequences that are as fast as our ability to send something out to the world.
  3. Psychological aspects: How users feel while interacting with no one and everyone at the same time. On twitter for example, is the value of what you write calculated by how it makes you feel, or by the response it gets. Does social media make us happier by giving us a window to vent out and share, or limit us by confining our opinions in boxes of what’s popular? Through posting and reading what others post, have we created an ideal experience that can turn devastating if not “post-perfect”?

Researchers have even developed the term iDisorder to describe the stress-related disorders caused by overwhelming the brain with information from social media.

On the topic of social media and anxiety, there are studies supporting different notions. There are many aspects that causes social media users to worry and can cause alienation from the networks that are supposed to connect, few of them can be highlighted in the term FOMO (fear of missing out), the constant feeling of something amazing happening within or outside our circles without having a mean to instantly connect to it, because we live in a time when a lot of amazing things happen very fast, we need to constantly feel on top of things.

Another aspect of anxiety in the new age is the “am i good enough?” questions. Am I good enough to compete in this ever-growing community of great talents? Do I know the right people to help me get where I want? Am I taking the right steps to belong in the right circles for me? All these questions are going through minds of young people, these questions didn’t go through younger minds with this intensity and urgency decades ago, add to it the social pressure built within an overly growing network and you might be able to link anxiety to the stressful effects of this type of interactions.

This being the argument accusing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other networks of spreading what became a voluntarily heavy responsibility, some researchers argue that social media is not to blame for anxiety, and that as much as it can spread negativity it can also spread happy thoughts and inspire its users to a better mental state.  

These and other angles of anxiety-related disorders and how they might be linked to social networking will be the focus of my research paper. By going in-depth into anxiety issues among social media users, the results reached will hopefully give a clearer perspective of how involved certain patterns of social media consumption is with these issues of anxiety.