Block 0: Week 2 Visualisation

Background

During these two weeks I have been looking for data to record and experimenting with ways to record and display it.

Because this is a public blog I have to be selective about what data I use and the degree of detail I reveal. Also, because the data has to be linked to my professional practice, so is recorded whilst I am working but is not done automatically (taking selection out of my hands), I have to be careful not to let this self-observation distract me from my work (either in terms of the time it takes to record data or the possible loss of focus).

Where am I?

For five days, I have asked the question ‘Where Am I?’ and kept a tally of the answer in terms of the space I felt I was inhabiting.

Map of my location for the first three days of Week 2

Explaination

The map shows ‘fields’ representing all the spaces I visited at some point during five days.

The ‘path’ shown here represents my transit for each of the first three days of the week (which were identical due to a highly structured three-day workshop I was facilitating). The broken lines represent activity, often messy and hard to quantify exactly; the solid lines are the comparitively quick and easy ‘flights’ between spaces.

Visualisation format – reflection

Instead of the beautiful rendering seen in Dear Data, I have simply recorded my path. This illustrates that there is a lot you/I do not know which is, I feel, an important point, possibly the most important point, about data visualisation.

The quick and easy flights between spaces is also a contrast to the movement between physical spaces I would previously have experienced. On the positive side, there is a saving of time and effort which can lead to greater levels of productivity. But counter to that, one is less aware of having moved and this can create a sense of monotony even confusion (Where am I?). More importantly, it also means that you are much less likely to encounter anything unexpected on your travels or meet anyone unintentionally, which can close down your awareness of the larger environment; increased focus has a downside.

You cannot know from the visualisation, what portions are work, social or study. I know that my flight into Moodle signals the point at which I start the study portion of my day. For these three days, the spaces for work and study were entirely separate; not always the case. My use of social media on these three days was only during breaks… but of course, this is an area where one might be tempted to edit the data to make a better impression of oneself, if use of certain spaces could be criticised.

There are no numbers. I could have represented time spent here but this could then have been interpreted as the key quality of my engagement (because why else would I have recorded it?) Numbers also suggest a level of precision to the viewer, and one can be tempted to take the numbers and reanalyse them, without questioning the validity of doing so. Publishing data has a huge responsibility attached to it.

I could also have represented exactly what I did when in each space, but (a) in a workshop of this kind with so many small activities, simultaneous manual recording would have been impossible due to the necessity to focus on the workshop, and (b) I didn’t want to interrupt my focus during study time either.

Ironically, these days represent an extremely structured work day followed by highly structured study time… so you can imagine what the last two days of the week, which had no imposed work structure, looked like.

Visualisation inspiration

During the workshop we discussed the weather in our various countries. I was awaiting snowfall, which seemed like it would never arrive, then a colleague sent me a photograph from their apartment window: a line of gardens, covered in snow, with multiple sets of tracks describing circuitous paths.

Though I have been working full-time from my desk at home, hardly moving for nearly a year, sometimes I feel that mentally I am making that same kind of journey. As soon as I saw the image, I knew that was my visualisation metaphor.

Crow tracks in the snow (Image: CC BY @gnomonic).

I am also reminded of someone else who didn’t seem to be able to travel in a straight line.

Looking forward

Because this is a busy time at work, and prompt responses are often required, I have to consider the practicality of recording. This makes me think that the data I will collect, if always manually, will almost certainly be influenced by what is convenient to record, not necessarily what is interesting.

6 Replies to “Block 0: Week 2 Visualisation”

  1. Thank you for sharing this journey with us. I learnt a lot through reading your reflection on what details you recorded / reported in this visualisation exercise. I share your sentiment on “the quick and easy flights between spaces is also a contrast to the movement between physical spaces I would previously have experienced.”, which has certainly been the case since I started working in the e-learning industry.

    I can certainly relate to the constant back and forth between MS Teams and OneNote!

    1. Thank you, Enoch, that’s kind of you to say so.

      Being able to fly from one thing to another, and having worked from home like this for almost a year, I wonder what it would be like to return to working on a physical campus, when travel time will become a factor again.

  2. I absolutely love your visualization metaphor, Tracey! And I share your concern here – the choice of our focus for the week will be limited down to various factors, starting from the lockdown and finishing with work commitments that very often can’t be interrupted. Also, I think it’s a good to idea to think in the direction of what other relevant aspects could have been analyzed to make your data even more informative.

    Black, grey and white colours are a nice decision too, as if you aimed to emphasize the monotony and fluidity of your online journeys.

    1. Thank you Iryna. I am attempting to find a balance, always knowing that there is so much more I could record and aspects I don’t even know about.

  3. I also thought that self-observation would distract me from my work, however today it seems the opposite was true! I became so engrossed with my work that I forgot to record anything at all. I think it may take me a while to get into a rhythm of automatically recording my activities.

    I also loved your metaphor. I sometimes feel trapped by the lockdown restrictions and this was a lovely reminder that we are still moving forward and living!

    1. Ah ha, that happened to me too today! And I was really feeling pleased with myself that I managed to start the week so productively and with so much focus (not my typical Monday morning).

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