Dear Data: A data visualization project that doesn’t involve a computer


How many times did you say thank-you this week? Or see a wild animal? Or eavesdrop on a conversation?

These numbers, and many more, were collected in an award-winning analogue data journalism project by Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec called Dear Data. The project consists of 52 postcards, send via the conventional postal delivery services, between Lupi and Posavec. Every postcard contains a hand drawn data visualization that depicts data collected over the preceding week in response to a particular topic or question.

The data collection process and editorial decisions behind the visualizations are outlined on the project's website, and it is clear through the different methods chosen by the authors that, even in the analogue world, there is no one best way to determine indicators or visual representations for a particular story.

Take, for example, thank-you week, also known as week 03. In this week, Giorgia collected data for every time she said thank-you or was thanked, as well as the language it was said in, the mode of delivery, her relationship with the person, and how much the was meant by the word. Conversely, Stefanie collected data on thank-yous said, with respect to the level of intimacy she had with the person. By the same token, both authors took different approaches when it came to visualizing their data. Giorgia aggregated and divided data per category of people, say, if they were a waitress, shop assistant or stranger; while Stefanie divided her's into three categories of intimacy. What results is a distinctly resonant story about how we each experience data differently in our real, every day lives.

Image: Dear Data, by Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec, week 03 postcards.

The project will be published as a book by Penguin UK in September 2016, but until then you can explore the postcards on the Dear Data website.