Edward Tufte, make me a taxonomy!
May 18, 2009 11:32 AM   Subscribe

Help me devise an Edward Tufte-approved visual system for tracking my life/health/happiness! Portable, layered, colorful, graph-like but illustrated...

Right now I'm imagining a 365 page accordion-fold book that opens both ways--forwards for a timeline (with illustrations and notes I add day by day), and backwards for a regular journal/notebook. But I'm not at all wedded to that idea, though I do like the idea of being able to view several/many days at once as a progression. (A huge set of scrolls seems like a theoretically good idea, but unwieldy and silly in practice. Maybe a 60p accordion Moleskine is most practical..)

Practically, I'd like this to serve as a visual diary of my day's events, plus a way of tracking trends. I also want to be able to record evolving goals I set for myself, no matter how banal ("floss teeth," "write for an hour"), and have some aesthetically interesting way of seeing their progress..

As a side question, give me ideas of how to develop emotional/tonal taxonomies! How do you categorize the events/ideas in your life in a way that takes into consideration their emotional qualities, seriousness/ephemerality, etc? How to overlay a cloud system (think web 2.0 in analog, but without the layers of acetate!).

But despite the bent toward data collection, I want this most to be a creative project using collage, illustration, etc. So, the questions: how should I approach a project like this? What should I keep in mind? How would you go about developing taxonomies for this? I want to hear your anecdotes, your speculation, your naysaying or wonderful visions for doomed projects! How would you do this?
posted by soviet sleepover to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
posted by SeƱor Pantalones at 11:33 AM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I just ran across this less than 15 minutes ago. I think if you are looking to take your data-collection offline you could achieve a similar effect by taking poster board (or painting a stripe across your wall) and thumbtacking/taping things on this wall-timeline.

It would make for a neat project that your friends could see when they came over, and you would be able to get an awesome panoramic photo of the whole thing when you're done.

My hands are itching to do something similar now.
posted by ttyn at 11:51 AM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: A little more thinking about this... I'd like to graph three major trends using broad lines that run across each page (and, if the accordion-fold book comes to pass, it can be unfolded to show a timeline): happiness/emotional arc; health/energy/sexuality; and learning/discovery/productivity (which will include general productivity like paying bills, but will focus primarily on creative goals)...

Then, using a fold-out key taped to the inside front cover, I'll track banal but necessary data using little dots vertically along .5" of the outside of each page: time up in the morning; vitamins/pills/flossing/etc; exercise/activity... Plus writing & professional development (as a writer) things, which I tend to do in huge bursts of activity rather than ongoing day-by-day (otherwise I'd class them under the three major trends above).

Then, in no particular place on the page, I'll note more details about writing/professional development, day-to-day activities (a mini-diary/journal), and books/movies/media, plus anything else worth noting...

Senor Pantalones, datum isn't what I'm looking for (I'm trying to avoid cross-pollinating creative projects & the internet), but it looks incredible. I'll check it out further!
posted by soviet sleepover at 1:37 PM on May 18, 2009

Response by poster: It seems like lots of people are reading this, but not so many are replying! So here's a followup question: suggest notebook brands that would work with this project! At this point I'd like an accordion-fold notebook with larger pages than the pocket Moleskines (Moleskine only does accordion-fold as pocketsized), and at least 50 pages. Suggestions?

Some notes, mostly for myself: If I draw a horizontal baseline through the center of the page, then have the major trend graphs move along that axis (i.e. above=happier, below=sadder), I wonder if I'll be setting up a too-binarized system for myself?
posted by soviet sleepover at 4:23 PM on May 18, 2009

Best answer: Since you name-checked Tufte, I'm assuming you've seen the cyclogram poster he sells? (halfway down)
Handmade by a Russian cosmonaut, Georgi Grechko, this cyclogram shows a 96-day flight of Salyut 6. Some 22 parallel time-series show 1500 sunrises and 1500 sunsets during the flight, a schedule for space walks and baths, and visits of resupply ships bringing equipment, fresh fruit, and gingerbread.
I have no idea how you'd go about actually making something similar - big sheets of paper mounted on a large drum, like a prayer-wheel? Perhaps you could email Grechko. At least you won't be working on it in the confines on a space station!
posted by Ritchie at 3:43 AM on May 19, 2009

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