Project 1

by guribe @ 1:04 am 27 January 2010

Visualizing beauty trends in America from the past ninety years

Click on the link below to view my information visualization for project 1:
My Information Visualization

Where the idea came from

When I started this project, I originally wanted to compare data from the Miss America or Miss USA pageant and compare it national obesity rates by state. Knowing that both obesity rates and standards for beauty have risen, I was intrigued by the comparisons these two datasets would create. Eventually, after several iterations and variations of this original idea, I decided that 1) I did not want to be limited to creating a map of the United States by using state by state data and 2) I wanted my visualization to have some sort of interactive element.

At this point, I decided that the data I had collected about the past Miss America winners was strong enough to produce a visualization that would show trends in our culture on its own without needing the comparisons of other datasets.

Using Processing, I aimed to show general changes amongst the Miss Americas through graphs and timelines that included photos and data about their height, weight, body mass index, and waist measurements.

How I obtained the data

I collected all of the data by hand, from various websites, Wikipedia, and Google image searches. I did not find any websites where parsing or scraping would have been useful, so I decided not to use these techniques. Instead, I manually collected data of each of the winners’ height, weight, body mass index, and waist measurements, as well as finding as many pictures of the winners as possible for the timeline.

The idea for this type of data collection came about when I found a page in the website dedicated to the Miss America pageant that included most of the past winners’ stats. I used this page for most of my data and filled in the holes with my own Google searches.

Some discoveries I made along the way

The most challenging part of this project for me was working with Processing. I had only used it once before (not including project 0) mostly just using it to capture video.

Through this project, I became more familiar about how to use Processing to create drawings and interactive elements. Although the final applet may seem primitive, programming with Processing in this way was extremely new to me and I feel much more confident now about using Processing in the future.

While I was working on the project, I realized that I was more interested in the pictures of the timeline than in the graphs. If I could change the project now, I might make more of an emphasis on the images than the other data I had. It would be interesting to see a composite Miss America similar to the project shown in class about people who look like Jesus.

My self-critique

In retrospect, there are several changes I wish I could have made to this project. First of all, I feel as if I wasted much time rethinking my concept for the content of the project. More time was spent thinking of new ideas than actually creating the project which caused my final product to suffer.

Secondly, I feel as if the interactive elements fall short of my initial ambition. I wanted this to be extremely interactive; and although it is interactive in some ways, it seems no more interactive than a common website. The ultimate experience turned out to be much less exciting than I was hoping for.

Thirdly, I wish I had put more thought into the visualizations of the graphs. They are quite static and a bit boring, and especially after seeing what other students in the class have created, I feel as if it could have been more compelling.

More specific changes I would make if I had more time to work on this project would include making the scrolling action for the timeline less jumpy, and plotting the yearly data in the graphs instead of only plotting the rounded average of each decade. I would also strive to make the graphs more interesting and create a stronger interactive element.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Gabi, here are the PiratePad notes from the crit.

    I like the issue of dealing with beauty and how it changes over time.

    It would be nice if you could see the images of the Miss Americas in the context of the line graphs. -MH

    Looks like we all got booted. Comments on this one will be sparse for that reason. The images seem to speak well for themselves; your intuition to somehow bring out those photos more is a good one. -SB

    I like the way you scaled the photos to their actual height.-Jon
    It might also be interesting to get data about each state (Miss California, etc).

    Really cool idea, I kind of wish you had kept the obesity rates, or maybe included some more information about the women.  Some scary statistics you might want to include is age range, life spans, race, popular names, etc. I did like the pictures of the women scaled to height.  Nice detective work though! -Amanda

    This is a new york times interactive piece you might find interesting for the interaction,

    are you trying to make a visualization of america’s idea of “perfection” or an actual visualization of ameria?America’s idea of “perfection”. Including the Obesity rates would have been a visualization of America.
    i also think the timeline image is nice, but when comparing that to trends, it seems to not show those points as clearly, just a change in fashion.

    This could also make a really nice print piece. Try combining the graph data with the photos by overlaying it somehow?

    Interesting idea but I wonder how you could make it more interactive. I kind of feel like this could be more successful if it were either one large and very beautiful, clean, static visualization, or a more playful approach with different filters and interactions and things you can do with it.

    Strong work collecting that data; I recommend open-sourcing it as well. Consider stacking your graphs in parallel.

    Comment by placebo — 1 February 2010 @ 5:00 am

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