Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Time Series

As a scientist most of the data I work with is time series data (personally, I've worked with things like accelerations of the seafloor as a function of time both due to earthquakes and not, pressure as a function of time, electric fields as a function of time and so forth). I've found that the concept of a 'time series' is allusive for students, though it can be quite simple. A time series is a collection of measurements made (hopefully) regularly in time, like: a list of daily temperatures, marks in a doorway of a family's children's height every year, sheet music, records of a stock's daily price, records kept by many modern cars of speed as a function of time. There's a whole field of study (time series analysis) with tools for plotting, studying and milking these types of data for all their worth. The simplest, most fundamental and perhaps paramount thing though, is simply to show these data. This can be particularly challenging, if for instance one wants to show motion (position as a function of time) of two or three dimensional things - and is something which clearly interests artists as well as scientists. I've gathered some interesting and beautiful examples, both data visualization and fine art.

Here's a time series of the sort I know well, as a geophysicist.

Luke Jerram. Source: theboulevardiers.com via minouette on Pinterest

Tōhoku Japanese Earthquake interpreted as Sculpture, by artist Luke Jerram.

"To create the sculpture a seismogram of the earthquake, was rotated using computer aided design and then printed in 3 dimensions using rapid prototyping technology." Because seismic data is actually 3D, I rather wish he had taken the vertical and the absolute value of horizontal, rather than just rotating the vertical to make this shape, but I do find that making the seismogram in 3D gives it a sort of solidity that can be lacking in a line plot. He's taken a similar approach with his 'Crash! Glass Stock Exchange Sculptures', using raphs of the New York Stock Exchange (Composite 2004-2012) and the Dow Jones (Industrial Average 1980-2012) to make us thing of the current state of world finance and its impact on people.

Luke Jerram. Source: lukejerram.com via minouette on Pinterest

If you are unfamiliar with his work, you must really go look at Luke Jerram's sculptures, particularly his amazing glass viruses.

The Crayola time line rapidly communicates not only the rate at which crayon colours have been added (2.56% annually, apparently Crayola’s Law states: The number of colours doubles every 28 years), but which specific colours have been available at in any year from 1935-2010.

  Louisa Bufardeci, Source: louisabufardeci.net

'13 captured telephone conversations - all one minute long' (2006)
machine embroideries, each 13 x 18 cm/5 x 7 inches

Australian artist Louisa Bufardeci often works with data, including time series data. She's embroidered sound intensity as a function of time in '13 captured telephone conversations - all one minute long' above, and 'Every second is like, forever, and every year is like 11.3 centimetres' below.

 Every second is like, forever, and every year is like 11.3 centimetres (2007)
embroidery floss, fibreglqass screen, each 50cm wide, lengths variable

Harold N. Fisk. Source: visualnews.com via minouette on Pinterest

This map produced in 1944 by Harold N. Fisk, is a sort of time series of the 2D shape of the lower Mississippi, in a rainbow series of colours to represent its placement as the mighty river changed course and flooded over time.

Annelie Berner. Source: itpabb.tumblr.com

Annelie Berner, a graduate student at the Interactive Telecommunications Program in NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, has created this lovely light shade using a laser cutter to print temperature anomalies since 1850 on leaves which she sculpted into a light shade. "The cutout circles are big when there were big shifts, small with small shifts in temperature. Temperature anomalies mean that leaves age, color, and fall in different ways than they do during average temperature years." So, by employing the leaves as a medium she's speaking to how temperature anomalies can impact our world.

Undulations of the fins of a skate viewed from the side, Étienne-Jules Marey, 1894 Source: lushlight.tumblr.com via minouette on Pinterest

Étienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904) may be best known as a chronophotographer, like Eadweard Muybridge, but he also worked  in physiology, cardiology, physical instrumentation, aviation and  cinematography. The Victorian photographic method of chronophotography, which captures motion in several photographic frames is a wonderful means of showing a times series of motion of people and animals (and will be the subject of my next post). Marey's illustration of the undulations of a skate ray is acts like chronophotography, with time as the vertical axis, and truly demonstrates how skates move. This method influenced other diagrams.

Olympic Diving Diagrams (1912) Diagrams showing the trajectory of the major dives as performed at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. (All images taken from The Fifth Olympiad: the Official Report of the Olympic Games of Stockholm 1912 housed by the Internet Archive, donated by the University of Toronto).

Adrien Segal  takes an "interdisciplinary approach that integrates scientific research, data visualization, aesthetic interpretation, and materiality, [his] work seeks to reconcile scientific conventions of reason and fact with an intuitive sensory experience...  interpret[s] the complexity of natural systems by translating scientific data into lines, shapes, forms, and materials to reveal trends, patterns, processes, and relationships as three-dimensional sculptures."

Adrien Segal. Source: http://www.adriensegal.com/

"Tidal Datums is a wooden table whose form is inspired by the formal language of data graphics. The table is intended to be a representation of analytic information through the medium of furniture. Data graphs were gathered from NOAA’s historic tide database, more specifically the measurements of tides at San Francisco Bay over a 4 week period, and then translated into tangible material."

Christiane Keller has created a number of fascinating sculptural works which are spatial and temporal data visualizations.

Christiane Keller. Source: christianekeller.de

"A 3D data sculpture of the Sunday Minneapolis / St. Paul public transit system, where the horizontal axes represent directional movement and the vertical represents time. It is constructed of 47 horizontal layers, each forming a map of the bus routes that run during a given interval of time. Within each layer, every transit route that operates at that time is represented by wood balls placed at its scheduled stops, connected by the horizontal copper rods."

 Annika Syrjamaki weaves time series data including stock and weather data into fabric, making beautiful fine art textiles!

Annika Syrjamaki. Source: fastcodesign.com via minouette on Pinterest

Political party data

Annika Syrjamaki. Source: fastcodesign.com via minouette on Pinterest
Word frequency data

For more, see also the magpie&whiskeyjack post on Sculpting Data and Painting Time Series and the upcoming post on Chronophotography.


  1. Hi, I believe that you've mislabeled the image of the "Tide Tables". It was not created by Christiane Keller, it is a piece by Adrien Segal (www.adriensegal.com)

    1. Sorry for my error and thank you very much for the correction and link to your site. I've updated the post accordingly. It's a wonderful piece.



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