Cycling 365 is a very simple visualisation tool for the public that shows cycling data across the whole network of Sydney’s cycleways, through different lenses – geographic, timebased and so on. In investigating the data set, of the fine grain data is exposed in a rich way that reveals the patterns of data. One immediately notices the weekends when it’s quieter, the weekday commuter peaks in the morning and afternoon, and the seasonal changes – such as no cycle traffic on Christmas day. It’s also possible to drill down to different stations.
One also discovers interesting anomalies, such as a huge spike in one location in October 2012. Further research reveals that there was a cycling festival on this day. It’s not an error – it’s real data. Whitelaw is particularly interested in these stories and how it’s possible to reveal other data through this data. Overall, the tool tells the story of steady and continued growth in cycling. It speaks of pervasive use of cycle ways and of a groundswell. In speaking with the City of Sydney cycleways staff, Whitelaw discovered the strongly adversarial nature of the debate around cycling in Sydney. This became the dilemma with this Data Slam project. While one might expect a comfortable, rational view that “of course everyone should cycle and the cycleways are fantastic”, this actually ignores the existence of an incredible rage associated with cycling that is prevalent in a certain subset of the population.
One can’t solve this dilemma by throwing data at it. The dilemma becomes, how do you represent the culture wars, the discourse, the hostitility the defensiveness, how do you untie this? Why has the growth in cycling attracted such negativity when it clearly works for so many people? Whitelaw sees the tool he created as a way to start opening
up that conversation.
- Mitchell Whitelaw is an academic, writer and practitioner with interests in new media art and culture, especially generative systems and data-aesthetics. His work has appeared in journals including Leonardo, Digital Creativity, Fibreculture, and Senses and Society. In 2004 his work on a-life art was published in the book Metacreation: Art and Artificial Life (MIT Press, 2004). His current work spans generative art and design, digital materiality, and data visualisation. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Canberra, where he leads the Master of Digital Design.