F

Notebook

Here's where we post periodic updates on what we've been up to at Fathom. Reflections on the interesting stories that emerge from our client work, side projects, after-hours rabbitholes, and other miscellaneous threads of inquiry.

The field kit
Sina Najafi, editor-in-chief of Cabinet, contacted us about including our project Colorful Language to serve as a visual explanation of the World Color Survey data, the topic of an essay in the new issue. Cabinet is a quarterly non-profit publication about art and culture based in Brooklyn, NY.
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Let's talk about the weather
We're excited about our recent release of NikeFuel Weather Activity, a website that connects billions of 2013 Nike+ FuelBand activity data points with localized weather data. In continuation of our study of movement patterns from the 2013 year in NikeFuel, we overlaid 2013 weather data on a map of the U.S. to see how temperature, rain, and snow impact physical activity. We'd like to take this opportunity to reflect on some of the processes that went into the design and development of the site.
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NikeFuel Weather Activity
In partnership with Nike, we’ve created NikeFuel Weather Activity, a website that connects 2013 Nike+ FuelBand activity with localized weather data, allowing users to see how daily temperature, rain, and snow affect personal, statewide, and national movement patterns in the U.S. The site features an interactive map that illustrates how states and regions react differently to changes in the weather. You can see, for instance, that what’s considered warm in the Midwest is still too cold for the South to get moving, or that the Rocky Mountain states are the only region to turn up their intensity in extreme heat. In addition, the site provides Nike+ FuelBand users with personalized stats and interactive graphics, so individuals can see how temperature, rain, and snow affect their minute-to-minute and daily activity patterns.
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Miles of Data
Exactly 69 years ago today, on April 24, 1945, a young trumpet player named Miles Dewey Davis got the chance of a lifetime. He had recently left his native East St. Louis for New York City, and at only seventeen years old, he was playing alongside the legendary Charlie Parker. On this day, he was heading into the recording studio for the first time. Perhaps he wasn't quite up to the task: in his first recordings, Miles' playing comes across as tentative, especially when compared to Parker's confident saxophone. But Miles soon found his voice, and over the next forty five years, his vision pushed him into uncharted territory and repeatedly redefined the scope of jazz.
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James + Mark speak at Harvard
Mark and I just finished a talk at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Science CS 171 - Visualization course with Professor Hanspeter Pfister and Alexander Lex (Head TF). We got to share some recent projects we’ve worked on — some more in-depth than others — in order to convey our understanding of "Audience, Context, and Tools with Storytelling and Data Visualization." We fielded some interesting questions at the end. The talk should be online soon.
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Coding the Body
If you’re in New York City between now and May 10, stop by the TriBeCa art space, apexart to see the latest Coding the Body exhibit. Organized by friend and former M.I.T. Media Lab professor Leah Buechley, “Coding the Body interrogates the relationship between human and code. It explores how code is being used to understand, control, decorate, and replicate us.” At a time when our lives are increasingly defined by codes—whether written by genetics, religion, or software—Leah's exhibit explores the fascinating, enchanting, and occasionally unnerving relationships that  develop between humans and code.
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Robin Hood Poverty Tracker
When Robin Hood first came to us with the intent of visually representing poverty and disadvantage in New York City, we were fascinated to learn that our understanding of poverty was based off of an outdated and inaccurate federal measurement. The Poverty Tracker, Robin Hood’s latest initiative, measures financial poverty, material hardship, and health challenges to give a more accurate depiction of what it means to be poor in New York City. In the analysis, construction, and design of this project, we felt it particularly important to remind ourselves throughout the process that we were looking at people—not numbers.
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Quantitatively measuring correlations
As I mentioned in my previous post, our collaboration with the Sabeti Lab is aimed at creating new visual exploration tools to help researchers, doctors, and clinicians discover patterns and associations in large health and epidemiological datasets. These tools will be the first step in a hypothesis-generation process, combining intuition from expert users with visualization techniques and automated algorithms, allowing users to quickly test hypothesis that are “suggested” by the data itself. Researchers and doctors have a deep familiarity with their data and often can tell immediately when a new pattern is potentially interesting or simply the result of noise. Visualization techniques will help articulate their knowledge to a wider audience. This time around I will describe a quantitative measure of statistical independence called mutual information, which is used to rank associations in the data.
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Searching for Spring
Today is March 20, the official first day of spring, and it almost feels like it. This winter in New England has seemed like one of the toughest in years. The cold and snow have been absolutely relentless, and I think everyone is sick of hearing about the Polar Vortex.
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Game on!
Data, in its multiple forms, can range from the very abstract to the most tangible. We tend to be type-agnostic, but recently a particularly clear set of data caught our eye: real-time position tracking for sports events.
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