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ReFlow is an iPhone application to meter and visualize your social acceleration. It collects personal data, like movements, email, smartphone usage, calendar etc. to calculate an acceleration value which is represented by an abstract interactive infographic, inspired by the appearance of rivers seen from space. For further information one can pull this "stream" aside to reveal more data.
The acceleration of our society in the digital age
Time. The most valueable good in our modern society is the dictator of our daily routine. We try to optimize our processes, procedures and actions to be as efficient as possible. At the same time it's not uncommon, that we have the feeling we have less and less time at hand. And if there's some free time, we are not able to relax, not able to calm down deeply. We are always on the run, contactable, have some to-dos left.
Our modern society is accelerating constantly. Everything is becoming faster, trade is a matter of miliseconds, the amount of emails we have do deal with is insane, we can reach the other end of the world with a 16-hours flight – if it's necessary at all, with the internet we can can see and speak to everyone in the world instantly.
We do not really know if our bodies and brains are capable of standing this in the long term, but almost every human has to deal with it. For my bachelor thesis, my target was not to solve this problem (which in my opinion needs involvement of politics and economy), but to raise awareness for this topic on an individual basis.
My idea was, to gather as much personal data about myself as possible and analyze it in terms of an "acceleration factor". I collected data from every possible source over the period of about a month, including email, calendar, location tracking, smartphone usage, work time, … To get an idea about the visualization, the following cite comes in:
Time is like a river. Sometimes it goes fast, sometimes incredibly slow. But the water is always moving and can’t go back.I forgot who said this
This idea of using water, or rivers in particular, as a metaphor for the changing perception of time everyone knows, seemed even more attractive to me as I found out about the aesthetic quality:
So my basic idea for the visuals was pretty simple: I used a stream-like shape to visualize my data, where the thickness and the position are dependend on the quantity and the source of data. To add another layer of information, the user should be able to pull this stream to the side to reveal contextual data: what he did at this time or if he was moving somewhere.
Logo + icons:
For the data collection, I used ProcessWire as a main hub for getting and storing all the data and a custom approach dependend on the data source. For example, the moves app on my phone collected all my movements which are synced to the cloud and accessible via an API. I then used the library PHPMoves to communicate with this API and to extract and import the data into ProcessWire. For each data source I basically had to find a specific solution to get data from, e.g. Google API for the calender, an imap library for mails, …
For the visual output, the data is multiplied with a source-specific factor, e.g. sent mails have a higher factor than received.