Type of project: academic.
At first, it might sound scary to think about visualizing your own browser history. How much time do I actually spend on social media, am I a good stalker? Am I really going to show this to people? We’re talking about personal information here. Does Google really collect all this data about me?
Since April 2014, Google lets you download a whole lot of data from your account. Not only your browser and search history, but also emails and even location logs. It might sound frightening to learn about this data collection done on your behalf — unless you did read the terms of agreement that Google provides when creating an account.
During the last two years, I’ve been traveling to multiple cities both for visiting friends and to attend conferences. This visualization is a snapshot of a selected part of this timeframe, from November 2014 to November 2015. Cities are placed in the space and are connected to Milan, where I live, by flight lines. Each ring around a city represents an URL that I visited regarding that specific city, so the more rings, the more research. The rings are placed chronologically from the center to the outside. Color indicates categories: flights, accommodation, general queries about the city, and searches about the conference held in the destination of the trip. The design of this visualization was directly inspired by my previous project Data Postcard, where I drew hand-collected data about my trip in Spain last September.
The overall setup is intentionally vague, hence there are no numbers indicating the quantity of searches, nor exact time indication of when the flights took place. Even the colors chosen for the subcategories — type of flight, type of accommodation, etc. — are very similar to each other, because I wanted to just give an overall idea of my dataset. In fact, I believe that if the visualization was too detailed and limpid in terms of numbers and categories, it would have produced a sense of clarity that I think doesn’t belong here: it is my data that I’m displaying and I want the reader to feel that there’s more to know than what one can see at first glance. But in order to actually read more, one would have to go on and count every thin ring for each city — hint: Barcelona has more than 900 rings — and compare the proper colors to the legend. In other words, one would have to actually creep into my personal data. These ideas add up to the big privacy discussion in the digital era. As an outcome of this project, I started to wonder: what is the edge of privacy when visualizing personal data? Is it how much one is willing to write or how much someone is willing to read?
Digital canvas: 1280x800 pixel