EXPLORING THE NATURE OF MY FEARS
This week I had the opportunity to dig down. I guess I always thought that my fears were something that were based on the Freudian concept of deep childhood trauma and primal self protective animalistic drives lurking deep within my psyche. But after tracking my fears, anxieties, phobias and other horrific emotional reactions and dark thoughts for a week, then quantifying them into raw numbers, I get a different picture. Hmm, I guess I was wrong. It turns out, that most of the time when I sense my spider sense tingling, it is really about a small, relatively inconsequential matter. I realized that the nature of fear in my life is like that of a wave (I am sure that there are people who live with very real danger constantly which cause fear). Almost 30% of my fear reactions are of low severity, but constant. They are unrelated to what I consider higher priority or consequential areas such as my family, finances, personal safety and society as a whole. Tracking and breaking down instances into a chart really helped me understand and visualize what most of my daily and ongoing periodic fears are about. My fears are cumulative, best expressed in a stacked 100% bar chart.
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.
The idea for my third and final “Dear Data” project came from an episode of Black-ish and it made me think of how many times I experience fear daily or weekly. https://abc.go.com/shows/blackish/episode-guide/season-05/22-is-it-desert-or-dessert I am not talking about run of the mill scary movie fear, I would like to develop a 7 point likert scale for things bone chilling thoughts like…”Wow, with these grades there is a possibility that my son will be living with us until his forties” to “The brakes on my truck sound squeeky, do I have enough life insurance?” to “Whats that noise at 3am, honey did you hear that…” and “Maybe this time it isn’t heartburn” I set out to answer the questions: How often do I experience FEAR?
What is the fear related to? Personal safety, family safety, financial, work or career related
Time of day
What was the severity? (this is where the likert scale comes in)
How long did it last?
Physical symptoms? Elevated heart rate, higher blood pressure, crying…all of the above
Collection of Data
I have become very comfortable with using Google forms for collecting data. 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. After playing with Tableau for a few weeks now, I am kind of excited about Google Data Studio. Maybe one day, I might be able to use actual google form data to populate a dashboard in real time.
Here are screenshots of my initial google form data results and the survey:
Production and Design
After collecting and analyzing all my data. I started to see the pattern. I took the percentages and generated a simple stacked bar chart in Powerpoint to use as a map for a stacked bar graphic. This way I could overlay the percentages over a drawing and slice it up so that it would be accurate. Once I created the stacked bar chart “map”, I printed it out and started working on my design. I decided to just leave the graphic on one side without any axis. marks or explanations. It is my intent to leave that mysterious, to make the user wonder if it is a flag, what the portions represent and how it looks both like a crude drawing of a head and fire. A bit dramatic, yes or maybe its July and its just hot outside and its getting to me.
In his book “Good Charts” Scott Berinato urges us to strip away as much as we can from a chart in order to “craft for clarity”, I may have taken this to advice the extreme in this piece, but I figured, Dear Data is about being experimental.
Very faintly in the same color marker I wrote the following questions in each section:
- “Are they safe?”
- “Are we safe?”
- “Am I safe?”
- “What about the world”
To represent the subject matter of each portion of the chart. Like all my Dear Data projects. I wouldn’t mind taking this concept further in Photoshop, Illustrator or interactively.
- I learned that the “F” word is a construct on three other major “F” words: Family, Finance, Future.
- I learned that my fear is a construct amassed from many small worries and micro reactions.
- Fear takes a physical toll.
- Fear and actual danger are two different things. Of course there are serious matters and fear is one way we can navigate and motivates us to avoid reckless and dangerous behavior but fear itself is internal and can be measured. It is unique to each individual and their circumstances.
In conclusion, this class has really made me think about data and visualizations differently. It has opened up a whole new area to learn and I am excited to take some of the tools and practices I have encountered and apply them to my work and future projects. Have a wonderful fourth of July everyone. Off to the BBQ’s, fireworks and fire pits! I will be thinking of this one at a safe distance.
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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