Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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Visualising Japan – Soma’s Tokyo Tuesday

October 23rd, 2008 by Seb Chan

I’ve been loving the data visualisations of the Japanese census done by Soma. The data source is the Statistics Bureau of Japan, and they’ve collected some very detailed behavioural data which has been made very navigable by Soma.

What’s Japan up to? Let’s find out with some graphs. Let’s get specific, too. How many women with part-time jobs are walking their dog at 3am? Yeah, we’ve got that.

Let’s jump right into this: Japan has the absolute best census in the history of my known world. Not only does it include normal things like age, sex, and the height of each of your pets, but it also legitimizes the gossipy question of What Are You Doing Right Now? Japan slapped a bunch of people with notebooks and a sacred Numbers Mission: keep a log of what you do during the day, in fifteen minute intervals. And those people did!

Now this sort of depth of data is unlikely to be gathered so effectively in any other country, but it does provide a glimpse into a future world of data transparency. It is a reminder, too, as Clay Shirky has been saying recently, that privacy for the most part only exists because of inconvenience – and that rapidly we are reaching a point where those barriers of inconvenience are disappearing. And, like we found with our collection database, once you shift the focus to improving the user experience, the Tokyo Tuesday visualisation makes browsing this rather arcane dataset incredibly engaging.

Play with Tokyo Tuesday. (via Information Aesthetics)

Tags: 1 Comment

  • It is a reminder, too, as Clay Shirky has been saying recently, that privacy for the most part only exists because of inconvenience.

    But for the data to be privacy-intrusive, it needs to identify the individual. The fact that only one person who was at school was eating a light meal on Thursday at 2:34 am (not a true fact, by the way) isn’t breaching anyone’s privacy. If we know what Noriko Kitsuma is doing at 2:34 am, on the other hand…