This experiment to count the animals you see is inspired by the marvelous book Dear Data: A Friendship in 52 Weeks of Postcards (Public Library).
Giorgia Lupi, an Italian woman living in New York, and Stefanie Posavec, an American woman living in London, are both information designers. They began a yearlong correspondence of tracking, drawing, and sharing their personal data through postcards.
Each week they would choose a subject on which to collect data on themselves like how often they complained, or the times they felt envious, or the sounds they heard. Then they created a drawing of the data on a postcard and mailed it to each other across the Atlantic.
What You Pay Attention To Matters
In September, I attended a discussion with the Dear Data creators that was moderated by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings. Giorgia and Stefanie described how the experience of paying such close daily attention changed their awareness of their surroundings.
They said they also learned:
- The nature of our questions drives our observation
- What we track reveals our personality
- By tracking, we encounter the “data void” or things we don’t notice
What we choose to look at it is what we think is important.
– Stefanie Posavec from Dear Data
The Favorite: Urban Wildlife Week
During the talk, Stefanie revealed that her favorite weekly experiment was when they noted all the animals they spotted in their urban environments of New York City and London.
You can read more about their notes and process here.
Count Animals This Week
This week I encourage you to try out your own Dear Data project and note the animals you see. For seven days, keep a list of all the animals you see (you can include dogs and cats, like Giorgia and Stefanie, if you want.) A few hints:
- Keep your eyes on the skies and building outcroppings
- Subway tracks are reliable areas for rat-spotting
- Visit larger parks to increase your mammal sightings of raccoons, squirrels, and chipmunks
- If you want to bump up your “critter count,” visit different landscapes. If you’re in NYC, this is a good excuse to spend time in the forests, at the riverside, and at the seaside – all accessible in the five boroughs.
- Experiment with different ways to document your wildlife sightings. Try lists, drawings, categorization, location. So many possibilities!
Have you ever tried to keep a wildlife list before? Let me know if you try this experiment and how it goes.
So I find this post really cool for two reasons: 1. the whole intent of awareness of one’s surroundings throughout the day; 2. I really appreciated seeing how they were able to put together a readable data system on a postcard – and each person had a different take on how to do it. Great! Thanks so much Traci.
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I’m so glad you liked the post, David. “Dear Data” is such an interesting project and beautiful book. Definitely worth checking out for more inspiration!
This is great! I love the awareness component. I am going to do this, especially excited to take advantage of the nearby bird feeder in my neighborhood.
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Thanks Lauren. I would love to find out how it goes!