Data Visualisation 2 – Data Posthumanism and Mindfulness

This week I decided to explore mindfulness and challenged myself to work with qualitative data. I discarded the results from the first day, in which I used my Fitbit watch to measure heartbeat changes during 2-min of guided deep breathing. I had also started by tracking any distractions with the aim of being in a state of presence, which is the approach Lupi and Posavec[1] take; by the end of the first day, I realised thoughts and being distracted are part of the assemblage of the present moment as Rumi suggests[2] and therefore could not only be aware of thoughts as they arise but to take an impartial third-person witness perspective on what arises, seeing observer-observed as one non-dual entity. I changed my approach to becoming an observer of what-is rather than a meditation practitioner trying to be present and noticed an improved depth of presence in the meditation; the focus became less on measurables and more on qualitative observation. There were two types of meditations I engaged in on a daily basis:

  1. Scheduled: The first a formal 20min guided practice at the beginning of each day. I had tried various teachers including J Kabat Zinn, Eckhart Tolle but decided to use Byron Katie’s approach[3] as it involves identifying a story, giving it a one-word label while also being aware of the breath and sounds as portals into the timeless present moment.
  2. Unscheduled: The second practice involved a colleague sending me three-five random reminders or .b to stop and pause (see Mindfulness in Schools[4]) throughout the day using Whatspps, Skype and/or email. While receiving each message, I would complete a 3min self-guided meditation break in which I used meditations bells to ground the momentum of mind in the present moment while observing what arises. The random nature of the messages meant they were not another to-do item I can schedule in and therefore would be more challenging for my mind.

Towards the end of the week, I began having a lot more creative insights and felt increased positive feelings of fun, curiosity and humour. There is growing evidence of mindfulness not only impacting wellbeing but also cognition, learning[5] and academic performance[6]. In her book The Power of Mindful Learning, Langer challenges seven common ‘myths’ or accepted approaches in education including ideas on rote-memorisation, the importance of focused attention and intelligence to more mindful approaches which consist of continuous creation of new categories; openness to new information; and an implicit awareness of more than one perspective[7] which I also experienced in my mindful learning journey (see below).

As part of the visualisation design, I deliberately wanted to avoid using letters, numbers or background lines to allow meaning to be explored in purely qualitative terms. I chose a circle rather than a square or triangle as the circle doesn’t have any sides one can count.

Fig 1.1 Mindfulness meditation observations
Fig 1.2 Key to mindfulness meditation observations


Day 5, non-workday, the thoughts my mind produced do not follow the pattern of days one-four and therefore influenced not only by the environment but by time or schedule. Day one-three, my 11-year-old son was in the room studying online which induced certain thoughts around his wellbeing and levels of online engagement. My colleague would send me an emoji 😃 as a .b. Day 3 I received an unexpected clock-emoji which produced all sorts of mind stories based on possible interpretations and meaning; this may have been Jungian synchronicity of a meaningful-event but the clock emoji coincided with another event involving a conversation regarding late working hours; mindful practice gave me the ‘implicit awareness of more than one perspective[8]. Day 4 we experimented with different emojis which was fun but didn’t quite have the same impact as the unexpected new emoji.


Rather than track each meditation against time, I decided to build on visualisation 1 from the previous week, and monitor total water intake for the day during each meditation. In mindfulness practice, there is often reference to the timeless dimension of the Now and therefore linear time may not serve ‘symbol’, measure or indicator to qualitative changes in consciousness. The water intake is recorded digitally through Hydrate water bottle throughout the day. The days I exercised first thing in the morning and therefore drank more water is evident from the later starting points; this observation wouldn’t have been available had I tracked the practice against time.

Fig 2.1 Mindfulness meditation against water consumption

Fig 2.1 Key to mindfulness meditation against water consumption
Fig 3.1 Daily data of water intake from Hydration app
Fig 3.2 Weekly data of water intake from Hydration app

[1] Lupi, G. and Posavec, S. (2018) Observe, Collect, Draw! Journal. 1st edition. Princeton Architectural Press.

[2] See Guest House poem by Rumi

[3] “The Gift of Imagination” – A Meditation

[4] dot means to stop and b stands for being or breath. See Mindfulness in Schools

[5] Weare, K. (2019) ‘Mindfulness and contemplative approaches in education’, Current Opinion in Psychology, 28, pp. 321–326. doi: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2019.06.001.

[6] Bakosh, L. S. et al. (2016) ‘Maximizing Mindful Learning: Mindful Awareness Intervention Improves Elementary School Students’ Quarterly Grades’, Mindfulness, 7(1), pp. 59–67. doi: 10.1007/s12671-015-0387-6.

[7] [8] Langer, E. J. (2016) The Power of Mindful Learning. Da Capo Lifelong Books.

One Reply to “Data Visualisation 2 – Data Posthumanism and Mindfulness”

  1. ‘seeing observer-observed as one non-dual entity’

    I really like the thinking behind this Saqib. The present / distracted kind of binary is one that definitely needs critique, as it seems to me it is so often used to justify a kind of efficient ‘on task’ kind of approach, which has never seemed to me very realistic. The distinction between ‘measuring presence’ and ‘qualitative observation is really interesting too – it seems to suggest something less pressured. I also liked that you changed your approach after a day – this kind of experimentation is definitely what this task is about, refining our thinking, and ‘tinkering’ with our visualisations as a result.

    ‘continuous creation of new categories; openness to new information; and an implicit awareness of more than one perspective[7]’

    These seem like interesting approaches to education, and definitely appear to be useful for thinking about our work with data visualisation, in the sense that we are quite fundamentally experimenting with categorisation, hopefully being open to what we might discover in the visualisation process, as well as demonstrating the ways that data can be interpreted in multiple ways.

    ‘I deliberately wanted to avoid using letters, numbers or background lines to allow meaning to be explored in purely qualitative terms’

    Great to see you challenging yourself here! And I think the result is really great – it definitely provides a sense of the ‘overall’, rather than the discrete steps or stages. But it also accounts for specifics, and these two things are certainly challenging to align within a single visualisation. It would be interesting to know if each node was randomly positioned, or if there was a rationale behind the positioning, even if it was ‘just’ aesthetics.

    Really excellent extension work here too, using your previous visualisation to see how this ‘qualitative’ work could be developed.

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