May, 2012 Archives

Here’s a 12-second movie that places a year’s accumulation of murders on a map. The Office of the Chief Technology Officer of the District of Columbia has created a rich repository of public data, the Data Catalog. The first data set I looked at was Crime incidents (ASAP) 2011, culled from their Analytical Services Application. This data includes the date of the crime incident, the offense, and the geographic coordinates, which makes mapping easy.

Like my previous project with Capital Bikeshare’s open data (see Watching Bikeshare Stations Grow Unbalanced), I used Processing to create a QuickTime movie. The first movie shows the city’s 108 homicides in 2011, accumulating red circles at each location over the course of a year. For comparison, a second movie shows all 32,739 crimes reported for the same period. » Continue Reading…

As users take bikes between Capital Bikeshare stations, some stations become unbalanced. Some stations run out of bikes, because they have more riders checking bikes out than riders checking bikes in. Other stations fill up, and when there are no empty docks riders can’t return the bikes. The system thus depends on a crew traveling to the unbalanced stations, transferring bikes from full stations to nearly-empty ones.

I used the open data from the first quarter of 2012 to create an animation, showing how stations gradually become more unbalanced. Beginning from January 1, 2012, stations that have more check-outs than check-ins are shown with red circles, while green circles are shown around stations that have an excess of check-ins. (Overlapping regions blend into yellow.) The size of the circle reflects the lopsidedness of the station’s usage. » Continue Reading…

Washingtonians were treated to a week of street performances, courtesy of the Kennedy Center. Instead of holding their latest festival in their cavernous tomb of a performance center, they spread the acts across Washington, DC. The “Look Both Ways: Street Arts Across America” festival brought acts to Eastern Market, Wilson Plaza, Farragut Square, the Old Post Office, and Yards Park. Washington doesn’t have a strong busking community, certainly not compared to my years in Bolder, Colorado, where the Pearl Street Mall was a gathering spot for tight-rope walkers and musicians. The week’s musical highlight was Mucca Pazza, a “circus punk marching band” from Chicago. They were a perfect fit for Eastern Market, ambling around 7th St (already closed to traffic for the market) and energizing passers-by. The most amazing spectacle came on Friday night, when the Old Post Office was lit up with colored lights and the block of Pennsylvania Avenue was closed off for more street performers. The evening ended with a dance by Project Bandaloop, with dancers suspended from the clock tower, dancing across the wall. Amazing!

Pom Poms
Mucca Pazza in Eastern Market » Continue Reading…

Wonderland Ballroom has an annual tradition that is the highlight of spring in Columbia Heights. The Sundress Party (or Sundress Fest) held last Sunday invited men (and women) to don sundresses in exchange for happy hour prices. A catwalk competition on the picnic tables offered a chance to take home bragging rights. The atmosphere was festive, giddy, and just a bit subversive. Some guys borrowed a girlfriend’s dress (if they fit), and others took pride in having shopped for the perfect outfit. The tavern also had a rack of available dresses. A few guys went all out and added wigs, makeup, and heels, but most just threw on a breezy dress and acted casual. See for yourself with the following photos.

Everything's on the Table

» Continue Reading…

2012 Wonderland Sundress Party

The joy of programming comes from the ability to create, and the best way to assess and enjoy your results is through a visual display. Animation adds a dimension that’s easily mined for education and entertainment.

I’ve experimented with animating using HTML5’s canvas element (Metro Distortion Map), and also KML via Google Earth (Animating Metro with KML and Google Earth). But for displaying static chronological information (like Capital Bikeshare’s open data), I wanted a way to build true movie files. I ended up working with Processing, which is both a programming language and a development environment. The language is basically Java, but designed specifically to make graphics easy, with built-in objects and functions. » Continue Reading…

The Green Lantern has always been one of my favorite superheroes, in spite of having a horrible rogues gallery. The ring’s powers may be silly, but at least it gives him the power of flight. In many ways he’s the adult version of Harold and the Purple Crayon.

And there’s something potent of the symbolism of a ring, be it a wedding ring, or the One Ring from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings fantasy.

This movie had the largest number of scenes, in fact they may be considered acts. I enjoyed drawing the green magic, and the wolf was fun too, perhaps reminiscent of Peter and the Wolf? The ending, as always, was problematic, and perhaps too similar to The Artist, but was fun to draw.

The Magic Ring

Here are three more variations on displaying the Capital Bikesahre data from March 23, 2012. That was the busiest day up to that point. Each 90-second movie uses a different method for conveying the trip data. There is no definitive method for displaying data, and the available choices are infinite. A common device is having a circle follow the path from the station where a bike was checked out to the station where it was returned, drawing in a straight line only because we have no way of knowing the actual path taken.

The animation below uses the metaphor of a bug walking across the surface of a pond, sending forth ripples with each step. Green ripples emanate from trips taken by casual users (signing up for 1 or 3 days), and blue ripples emanate from registered users (signing up for a month or a year).

» Continue Reading…

Variations on Displaying Data