— sarah makes a blog

data rep

Hannah Davis and I collaborated on this infographic How Did The Candidates Make You Feel? using some strange data of Americans’ emotions toward presidential candidates from the past 30 years. Last week, it was featured as a visual.ly staff pick and in the Washington Post!

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 4.14.31 PM

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Scientific American reposted my Beef Stakes project from FastCo Exist!


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Beef Stakes is up on FastCo Exist today! Thanks to Patrick James for the post.


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It’s old news in internet land, but still hasn’t sunk in for me. Hot damn! My project on NPR. Special thanks to Michaeleen Doucleff for making it happen!


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In the Tasteologie section.

beefstakes_notcot1 beefstakes_notcot2

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Check ‘er out! (Though I would like to point out that my project is a data representation, not an infographic.)


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Thanks to a tweet by my Data Rep instructor Jer, my Beef Stakes project was featured on infosthetics in all its meaty glory!



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My relationship with meat is complicated.

I have fond memories of mixing meatloaf ingredients with my hands as a kid, and taking my first taste of “carpaccio” when my mom wasn’t looking. In college I decided to become a vegetarian despite the fact that the only dish I knew how to prepare was steamed rice. Even now, the inclusivity of meat in my diet fluctuates between consuming only the farm-grown, veggie-heavy culinary delights I cook from scratch at home, and the sudden, raging feeling that I need to eat sushi 4 days in a row. My belief in evolution reassures me that my species not only survived, but thrived when we discovered that you can crack open the bones of animals and eat the marrow (read: super meat!) hidden inside. And most cannibals and idiom enthusiasts (you are what you eat) would agree that I am even made of meat. So you see, being a carnivore is not easy.

I decided to find a data set that pleased the side of me that I’m coming to realize is an obsessed foodie. Beef Stakes is a data representation of the amount of beef produced in 2011. My project is scaled down to include the top 4 beef-producing states, though through continuing exploration of data surrounding beef, I would love to expand my project to discuss beef imports/exports between the U.S. and the rest of the world. I’m also fascinated in the amount of waste involved in beef production; the oil used to transport, the methane produced by corn-fed cows, the actual amount of meat we consume vs. produce, etc.

Each piece of meat is made from modeling clay, and the trays were created by joining existing styrofoam packaging.

purchasing the styrofoam (aka everyone I know is getting homemade pickles for the holidays)
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my unsanitary work station
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sizing the steaks
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fun practical jokes for everyone!
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a shot for scale (assume my hands are not huge)
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The height of the steak is mapped to the amount of beef that state produced (1″ per every billion lbs) though, as my instructor Jer and I discussed, the correct execution would be to map the amount of production in lbs to the square mileage of the state, then to the size of the “state steak”. My current mapping process left Texas in the dust, when in reality it produces “only” about 2.5 billion lbs less than the top-producer, Nebraska.

The price tags were designed in Processing, and include the amount of beef produced per state, the cost (per pound & total) to produce the beef, and how much beef each citizen would’ve had to consume, based on production, if the beef had not been exported from that state.
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My main goal for this process was to explore the data I was able to access. However, I’d like to expand the project to further explore how much we are moving food around this country, and to point out the extreme wastefulness in our current system. From a design & materials standpoint, I’d like to rework the “logo” on each label to represent the appropriate state, not the U.S. as a whole. I’d also like to reconcile the “safety instruction” icons at the bottom of the label, as well as build custom styrofoam containers for each steak.

My data was taken from beefusa.org and Cornell’s library of USDA data.

beef_NE1 beef_NE2 beef_IA1 beef_IA2 beef_IA3 beef_KS2 beef_KS3 beef_TX1 beef_all2

Symbols on the labels are compliments of The Noun Project, Kenneth Von Alt, and Ashley Reinke.

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Hannah Davis and I worked together on two separate sketches based on some hilarious data: how presidential candidates made people feel. Because morals often play a role in American’s view on politics, it’s inevitable that emotions, too, will be involved. However, it’s such an absurd thought to assign numbers to emotions, and those emotions to presidential candidates, instead of talking about facts. Hannah and I decided to make our sketches equally as absurd (but also still valuable in some way). See more fantastically strange data collections from ANES here.

The copy in my sketch was inspired by Feminist Ryan Gosling to give the data a sense of humor.

I wanted to include an interactive sentence as a way users could select the emotion they were interested in viewing. Eventually, I’d the like the user to be able to explore each candidate individually by selecting his circle with a mouse click. See a video and a few still examples of the sketch below. Code available on github. Big thanks to Hannah for her debugging expertise!

PS – some epic mistakes I made along the way captured below & not to be missed.
I’ll give you something to be afraid of.

Seizure-inducing, wrinkly old dudes.

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Work in progress of my first assignment for Data Rep: to import a CSV with data from The Guardian’s Data Store into Processing & visualize it in two different sketches. The goal for the first sketch is to represent the data as clearly as possible. The second sketch is supposed to address the unique character of the data. I think what I have going here may be an awful mashup of the two, but it’s a start.

The data I used is from garden birdwatchers recording the likelihood that a UK resident will see a certain species of bird in their backyard. More information about the data here. Code available here.



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