263 Stories

June 2012

visualisation, software, runninglives, rca

263 Stories is a record of runners in Kensington Gardens between Monday 9th April and Sunday 22nd April 2012, the day of the London Marathon.

The habits of 263 runners using the Nike+ iPod sensors were seen over this period. The sensor discloses both its unique serial number and how far this runner has run. This information was logged with the date and time of the observation. The data was collected from the third floor window of the Royal College of Art using the Sparkfun iPod Serial board and algorithms developed by Dmitry Grinberg.

The data is visualised using Processing and laser etched into acrylic. Each row represents an individual, with time running horizontally. For each observation of a runner the height of the horizontal line indicates the distance run. The piece is edge lit by fourteen LEDs at the occurrence of noon each day, showing time in light.

The visualisation tells us both about the use of the park as a public place and the behaviour of individuals within it. There is a clear contrast between the space during weekdays and at weekends. On Thursday 19th and Friday 20th we clearly see the rest period taken prior to the Marathon.

Stories fill the gaps between these sparse data points. The conspiring colleagues running together over lunch, the broken-hearted runner in the small hours of the morning and the New Yorker in town for business who is seen six times on one day with metronomic time and distance, but never again.

The fact does not matter, we are compelled to understand the abstract as rich and complex. Narrative arrises from data. These stories speak far more of us, than the lives we glimpse.

In 2007 a team from the University of Washington implemented a receiver for the Nike+ iPod wireless sensors and published their results - Devices That Tell On You: Privacy Trends in Consumer Ubiquitous Computing. 263 Stories is a Critical Design response to this.

Exhibited at Show RCA 2012 as part of the Running Lives with Data project.

Featured in Design Week.