I WILL CONSIDER SPEAKING TO HUMANS MORE.
This project took me out of my comfort zone. Aside from working on school projects and occasionally drawing or coloring a holiday or birthday card with my kids I really do not whip out the pencils and markers often. In fact, at work…if I can take a project from idea to completion without using a single piece of paper I would. I needed to tap into a dusty region of my brain I left behind with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator came into my life. I learned and remembered a few things, one is that markers bleed and if you are working on a 5 x 7 postcard, better go back to the store and pick up some very fine markers. The other is when you make a mistake, you need to start over….there is no control Z. I have a whole new respect for our pre-computer Data Visualization ancestors working with bottles of ink and compasses.
About the project
As part of our Data Visualization class, we have been asked to create our own “Dear Data” postcards. Dear Data was a year-long, analog data drawing project by Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec, two award-winning information designers living on different sides of the Atlantic. By collecting and hand drawing their personal data and sending it to each other in the form of postcards, they became friends.
For this Dear Data project I am focused on who I speak to, about what, why and how it makes me feel. I did not know what to expect. I like to think of myself as a person who has strived hard not to really have to interact with anyone. But how isolated am I? Clearly, no person is an island, the world is interconnected…. yadda, yadda, yadda. I tend to lean on my fences, they make…. good neighbors. So, I feel it may be helpful to further explore my general distrust of others bordering on misanthropy.
Collection of Data
My initial efforts on this project was just setting up a mechanism that was convenient and would allow me to collect data in an efficient way. I decided to set up a google forms survey. Google form data can be collected and downloaded as a .csv so once I was done logging, it would be easy to download a spreadsheet and explore what story it had to tell about my exchanges with others. I bookmarked it on my phone and emailed myself address in case I need to fill it out from another location or device.
When I was setting up the survey, I realized that I needed to modify/refine my questions for a survey format.
I thought that once I have more data, I would break down some of the topics into more generalized categories like “work related”, “politics” “life” “complaints” “planning” etc. or just focus on a part of the data on how many conversations lead to a resulting action. What does that mean? I only talk to people when something needs to be done? What other insights might I have about my gift of gab?
Please note that these are just significant conversations, I omitted those lasting less than 2 minutes and were just greetings, answering questions and other communications that I did not consider a true exchange of ideas. The collection also did not include any of the other forms of human contact like text messaging, social media, email etc.
Google forms really made it easy to see how the data was progressing and made some real time pie graphs and charts that started to give me an early idea where things were headed. I downloaded the data in .csv format and started sorting things in Excel to look for more patterns and insights.
The Raw Data
Around the Memorial Day holiday week I had about 30 conversations. From May 25, 2019 – June 1, 2019 I would speak to people then duck away and try to log some data. Here are some highlights from the raw data:
I am a family man: 53.3% of the time I am speaking to family members, either my wife and children or brother, sister.
I am more social than I thought. I started the conversation 63.3% of the time. So much for my self delusion of being a grumpy hermit.
My meaningful conversations are edging out my “meh” exchanges, where I find value in approximately 23.7% compared to 20.4% with a below average or “meh” rating. I am aware and fully admit that I am 50% of that conversation therefore have some influence over the outcome. I am working on that.
Overall, I seem quite content and happy with my current level of exchanges with others and they are not a source of stress or unhappiness at all with a 86.65% Neutral to positive rating. (80% + half of the “mixed feelings category) I may consider speaking to humans more.
- I speak to my family more than everyone else combined.
- It is better to speak to my wife in the morning
- One third of my conversations are long, 10 minutes or more.
- I don’t like to speak on the phone, 86.2% of my exchanges are in person.
Well, that’s it. I think I am going to start lying about the project and tell people that it is a year long collection process. If it is anything like the effect of being on camera, I may get folks on their best behavior and better exchanges as a result. Nevertheless, I will start being more mindful about every verbal exchange I have from others from now on and try to keep my stats up by making it a more positive and meaningful brief connection.
Shawn is an Information Technology manager in Washington D.C. and a graduate student at Quinnipiac University pursuing his masters in Interactive Media and Communications.
References and Resources for Further Exploration
THE PROJECT — Dear Data. (2019, June 03). Retrieved from http://www.dear-data.com/theproject
Berinato, S. (2016). Good Charts: The HBR Guide to Making Smarter, More Persuasive Data Visualizations. Harvard Business Review Press. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Good-Charts-Smarter-Persuasive-Visualizations/dp/1633690709
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