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The cell phone-induced self portrait phenomenon that was the Oxford dictionary’s word of the year has been mined and visualized. A new online project called Selfiecity just went live Wednesday morning, following its debut at the data visualization conference Visualized earlier this month by data designers Moritz Stefaner and Lev Manovich.
Stefaner and his team collected 656,000 images from Instagram, and using Mechanical Turk pared that data set down to 1,000 selfies from five different cities: New York, Bangkok, Berlin, Sao Paulo, and Moscow. The crew then combed through the data to look at different trends around age, expression, and gender across the cities, and visualized much of that data.
The result is a never-before seen deep dive into the selfie, offering a glimpse into the human nature, the art, the surveillance, and the sheer bizarreness that is the selfie. The project also introduces a selfie engine — Selfiexploratory — where anyone can dig through the selfies and cut the data and images in different ways.
Some of the more interesting selfie trends? Only 4 percent of Instagram photos are selfies. Not surprisingly, many more woman than men take selfies, but surprisingly more older men above the age of 30 take selfies than women over the age of 30 (what’s up with that). Selfie takers in Bangkok and Sao Paulo smile a lot, while those in Moscow don’t.
These types of ambitious data design projects will continue to emerge as more and more data becomes available about every aspect of our lives and our planet. Other data design projects that were highlighted at Visualized included Pitch Interactive’s data investigation of drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, and The Refugee Project, created by design firm Hyperakt and designer Ekene Ijeoma.
Selfiecity was supported by The Graduate Center, City University of New York, California Institute for Telecommunication and Information, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.