That’s one crowded room

There’s no denying that I still use my fingers in the simplest of additions, so to say that getting my head around large figures is difficult is definitely an understatement. And I can certainly tell you that if someone told me the entire population of North, Central and South America could be represented individually in one room, I definitely wouldn’t have believed them. Until I saw this…

Not only are these representations forms of data visualization but they’re unlike many that are just simply 2D in their form. They’re tangible representations which exist within our own physical world. The use of the grain of rice is symbolic in that it is a rudimentary aspect of human experience which one can easily put into proportion against almost anything in their own mind.  Through data visualization, they have taken the invisible – the human race (which although is visible, is inconceivable) and created a visible visual register, through which we are able to easily analyse, compare, discover patterns and structure new relationships.

It has a persuasive rhetoric in that it urges us to consider the bigger picture. By creating an abstraction of the human race inside one single room, us mere mortals are able see the world through proportioned lenses and comprehend social issues through a visual scale.

Some other noteworthy visualisations:

Social media advertising firm DBB collaborated with the Polish State Railways to develop an electronic train timetable that measured waiting time not only in minutes or hour but in the amount of McDonald’s items which could be consumed before the trains departure, with the nearest store being a convenient 50 metres away. (Taking a mere number value and turning it into an experience everyone can relate to…I’m lovin it!)

Designed by art and technology student Sarah Hallacher, Beef Stakes, is a data representation of the amount of beef produced in each state of the US in 2011. The height of each steak (only the Top 4 states were created) is proportionate to the amount of beef produced in that state alone ( 1 inch per every billion pounds). The price to produce the beef as well as how much each individual would have had to eat to consume the state’s yearly production is on the price tags. (I usually love my steak but this just makes me feel sorry for all those cow… data visualisation creating social awareness for an issue.)


Figure 1: Beef consumption data visualisation for Kansas (Hallacher 2007)


Figure 2: Beef consumption data visualisation for Texas (Hallacher 2007)

C&A has launched a clothes rack in their Brazilian stores that shows in real-time the amount of likes each clothing item has received on Facebook, allowing customers to see how each item is perceived by the masses. (Creating a numerical value of people’s perceptions in a visual way…reverse data visualisation that works!)


Figure 3: Data visualisation of Facebook likes for clothing items (Unknown 2012)


Hallacher, Sarah, 2012, Beef consumption data representation for Kansas, digital image, Sarah Makes A Blog, accessed 22 April 2013, < >

Hallacher, Sarah, 2012, Beef consumption data representation for Texas, digital image, Sarah Makes A Blog, accessed 22 April 2013, < >

Unknown, 2012, Data visualisation of Facebook Likes for clothing items, digital image, The Verge, accessed 22 April 2013, < >


I’m not listening

My attention span these days is somewhat similar to that of a squirrel. For the mundane it is alarmingly low, but like that of a squirrel and his acorn it does increase slightly if I’m genuinely interested, although not much. I became aware of this lack of concentration sometime last year when I realised I was no longer able to simply sit on the couch channel surfing for hours. Now with my increasingly chaotic life my attention is worth much more. To watch T.V is to take away my attention from something usually much more worthy, and therefore it can’t just be any show, it has to be the best, my favourite, the one I’ve waited all week for. However, even during these shows I find that I have around a 5-10 minute window of pure TV-watching until my mind turns to refreshing Facebook or updating my Instagram (I know, it scares me too!)

When we talk about the commons and a shared collection of resources, it struck me as interesting that the materiality of our experience was also included, I had never thought of it in that way before. Can our attention really be a collective notion? Not just owned by yours truly but also by greedy advertisers preying on bored and lonely souls with a tub of ice cream and a remote on a Friday night?

With increasing mediums for information dissemination, attention is becoming a scarcity and something with monetary value.   “The ‘Attention Economy’ is thus a system that revolves primarily around paying, receiving, and seeking what is most intrinsically limited and not replaceable by anything else, namely the attention of other human beings.” (Kinsley 2010)

When you’re 12 and stuck at home for two weeks during school holidays without foxtel, then yeah ABC cartoons do have monopoly control of your attention, which is certainly not scarce. However as a busy adult I think I have complete autonomy in what I give my attention to, even if it is in a lecture when I really should be listening, I have the choice not to (a choice which I exercise much too often.) I am an “inherently calculative being, always assessing and calculating the worth and value of information” (Kinsley 2010) and constantly sifting through what is brought to my attention and only choosing a limited proportion of what is offered to fill my time. If a show bores me I’ll turn it off, If I don’t want to watch the ads I’ll  watch it online (or set the challenge of unstacking the dishwasher in under three minutes. ) My own attention economy, would not be very profitable.

Michael Ernard in his Short Manifesto on the Future of Attention imagines a world with attention as the measure of worth.

“Single TV episodes would be more expensive to purchase than whole seasons, in the same way that a six-pack of Oreos at the gas station is more expensive, per cookie, than a whole tray at the grocery store.” Things  that ‘cost’ more attention would be worth less as “prices of information commodities are inversely adjusted to the cognitive investment of consuming them.” (Ernard 2009)

A pretty ambitious idea… but not too unrealistic.

How Amazon try to get and maintain your attention:



[online] Kinsley, Sam (2010) ‘Tiziana Terranova—The Bios of Attention’, Paying Attention *

[online] Erard, Michael (2009) ‘A short manifesto on the future of attention’,Observatory, *

Nostalgic Desire

The thought of my children seeing me underage at a Halloween party scantily dressed with an ‘ accidentally’ ill-concealed bottle of alcohol does sometimes cause me to cringe and think, “oh so this is one of those photos I’ll regret in the future.” Yet the thought lasts for a mere five seconds until the much more sentimental response of “but that was such a good night… oh well, future me problem,” takes over and I decide the photo isn’t deserving of deletion. Diagnosis: Archive Fever!  Yes that is correct…I’m a memory hoarder. I never intended my life to be chronologically archived for the world to see but as Matthew Ogle notes, “We’ve all become accidental archivists; our burgeoning digital archives open out of the future” (Ogle 2010) I have a tendency to become emotionally attached to those moments in time, storing them in the archive of my life, Facebook. I have an irrational fear that removing them will lead to their permanent deletion from history into the dark abyss of lost experiences and forgotten achievements.

As Jacques Derrida explains, archives form the basis for what matters in society and even our sense of selves.  Derrida describes my illness perfectly in Archive Fever: A Freudian Expression. “It is to have a compulsive, repetitive, and nostalgic desire for the archive, an irrepressible desire to return to the origin, a homesickness, a nostalgia for the return to the most archaic place of absolute commencement.” (Derrida 1998 pp. 91.) Some days I find myself scrolling down my timeline in search of a picture, a memory, a moment in time when some aspect of my life began. I’m constantly plagued with the desire to remember it, re-live it and possibly re-regret it, through my perfectly ordered and reliable digital timeline.

My archive is full of my desires, or as Facebook would like to call them, things that I “like.” Whether they be memes, the worlds craziest videos or a friends photo album, it is a picture of me, who I am and what I place important. As a PR student however, I am well aware that image is everything, somewhat unfortunately, in our society. One can tell more than you think about someone through their Facebook, not only through the things they like but from their patterns of use, communication and most importantly, what is left out. “The Archive is made from selected and consciously chosen documentation from the past and also from the mad fragmentations that no one intended to preserve and just ended up there.” (Steedman 2002 pp. 68) Facebook is a very constructed archive in which we portray a composed window into our lives. Yet as Steedman adds “mad fragmentations” (the occasional drunken pool party photos) do somehow sneak their way in, without which the archive would not be complete nor accurate.

Apparently there is an option to use nostalgic music too, love it!


Derrida, Jacques (1996) Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

[online] Ogle, Matthew (2010) ‘Archive Fever: A love letter to the post real-time web’,, December 16,  < >

Steedman, C (2002) Dust: The Archive and Cultural Histroy, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press