Daily Data

I have aspirations of journalling. Notebooks, purchased with said aspirations in mind, devolve from journal, to notebook, to sketchbook, to grocery list, to crumpled in the bottom of a backpack. This cycle felt endless, every notebook a hodge-podge of lists and drawings and musings, or simply lost, half empty, for four months in a box that was never unpacked.  Then came the bullet journaling trend (someone put rules to a thing everyone was already doing and bought the domain), and I was like "hey, you CAN do that, self." But, alas, I had too much faith in myself, and my bullet journal became a to-do list in under three pages. 

Last Summer, after graduating and realizing that my brain was pooped, I decided I should start doing things to help improve my memory and overall brain function. These healthy habits included eating better and more consistently, sleeping, exercising (the basics), and drawing. I've been drawing for forever, but I decided to start drawing for fun again, with no expectations or purpose. My dad bought me some colored pencils for my birthday (how cute is he!), and I hadn't cracked them open yet. So I grabbed a colored pencil and started drawing random blobs and slowly, patiently, almost meditatively, coloring them in. This coloring, in combination with my fascination with personal "data" or stuff that represents you, and how it is all so nebulous these days, led me to my Daily Data collection. 

For about a month and a half, starting September 1, I have been collecting "data," day by day in a little graph paper Field Notes notebook. Here's where the colored pencils come in - each day is represented by a series of blobs and shapes in different colors. At the bottom of each page there is a key with descriptions. A red shape might represent a beer I drank or a mile I ran depending on the page. As the days passed, my Daily Data collection became part of my morning routine, recording what had happened the day before as a colorful composition in my tiny notebook over coffee. I'd bring my tin of colored pencils with the little notebook tucked inside to a cafe, camping, or on weekend trips to Pittsburgh. As my collection grew, my definition of "data" evolved to mean anything that I had experienced that day. Six black ellipses might mean I ate six oreos, and an up-side down brown arch might represent the stranger that we talked to on the way to the bar who told us it was his birthday and asked if we'd buy him a beer - he had great teeth! 

At the end of the month I took a good look back at the thirty pages I had created. Each one was, obviously, a little 2D time capsule of a mundane day in my life. Whether it was commemorating a special day of adventure with people I love, or a day that I ran more than I had in a long time, it was a personal, PHYSICAL record of my existence - of where I'd been, and who I'd seen, and what I had accomplished.

Since sharing a some snapshots of my daily data with a few intimate friends (all of my Instagram followers), I have had people tell me about a project that started in 2015 called Dear Data. Dear Data is a badass project where two ladies wrote post cards (love snail mail <3) back and forth with data from the week visualized on the front of said post cards. Some of these data visualizations are absolutely beautiful, and I think it's a super cool project and exercise. They've made a book and kits - it's kind of become a movement around visualizing little bits of first-hand experienced data. I'm glad I learned about it through sharing my Daily Data with folks.

My original inspiration for this project, as I referenced earlier, came from thinking about the data or evidence of existence that we are leaving behind in this digital age. When Instagram is your highlight real and snapchat is ephemeral and Facebook is for old people, where do these mundane pieces of existence live? How will our great grand children know how we lived between Instagrams?

This morning I recorded my data from October 11, 2017. Tomorrow I will draw a blob that represents the beginning of this blog. I think this is a type of journalling that I will be able to continue. Perhaps because it is 1/3 art, 1/3 journal, and 1/3 data collection. Whatever the reason is, I think it is a practice that brings me some mental clarity, and if nothing else, it helps me remember and appreciate the passing of a day.

I'd really love to hear what you think about this! And if you feel like trying it for yourself, I'd love to see what your data looks like! :)