Put Longwood on Boston’s Safe Cycling Map

Team: Reem Alfaiz, Argyro Nicolaou, Michelle Thomas

Our team created a video for Longwood Cyclists, a group of people who live or work in the Longwood area and want to make sure that Longwood gets its share of safe cycling infrastructure in the wake of the GoBoston 2030 campaign. This video is intended for online use and dissemination. We also created an accompanying Poster to be distributed and put up in the broader Mission Hill area.

The data from the GoBoston 2030 dataset show that a large portion of Boston residents are concerned with safe and easy bike access. Our audience is cyclists in Boston, specifically those living in or commuting to the Mission Hill and Longwood areas. We hope to encourage bikers to reach out to the Mission Hill Council Representative, Josh Zakim, and call for infrastructure reform to accommodate and encourage bike commuting as well as sign a petition to be sent to him. The GoBoston 2030 campaign has already shown that Boston’s City Council and the Mayor are committed to some sort of transport infrastructure change. Our video and campaign want to make sure that the Mission Hill area, and Longwood in particular, where so many people work, don’t get left behind in this process.

When looking through the GoBoston 2030 data, we noticed that the majority of questions written in were about issues of access (1297 out of 4719). We took a closer look at these questions and noticed two things; 25% of the questions were asking for safer options for bikers (325 out of 1297 questions), and some of the most striking ones mentioned the Longwood medical area, specifically problems on Huntington Avenue and Longwood Avenue. Some examples:

When do you think the Longwood Medical Area will be connected to the Charles River Bike paths via a barrier separated cycle track or lane?

As a commuter from Watertown to the Longwood medical area, I bike as much as possible.  The worst part of my ride by far is the portion on Longwood Avenue. I avoid Huntington Ave at all costs as it is substantially worse.

How are you going to improve bike paths and bike safety on major roads like Boylston St, Brookline Ave and Huntington Ave ?

We chose to create a character from this area using exact quotes from the data. In this way, we are putting a face and giving a voice to questions from the spreadsheet. Creating a character from the area using a combination of voices and issues will help us reach a wide audience and make people personally connect with the issue.

We chose to tell this story as a personal narrative video.  A video allows us to show an actual person, making it far easier to relate and pull the audience into the story more. It also allows us to physically show the route of many commuters. This is very relatable to Boston residents and shows recognizable landmarks. It also visually depicts the problems and dangers of a very common commute, while grounding it in reality. This also provides additional impact, clarification for those less familiar with cycling, and intense relatability for cyclists that know the area. Video also lends itself well to changes in mood, letting us shift the tone at the area of the character’s  accident to add weight to the incident. The video contains a direct call for action at the end, so viewers feel there is a way they can help bring change to the issues they just witnessed. In all, a video with a character directly rooted in the data creates a more personal data story with direct visual impact at a high level of relatability for Mission Hill and Boston residents.




Getting to know the refugee populations of Massachusetts

Team: Michelle Thomas, Phillip Graham, Argyro Nicolaou

The data says that 16,214 out of more than 670,000 refugees resettled in the US since 2005 are hosted in Massachusetts. We want to tell the story of resettled refugees because the integration challenges that refugee populations face is something that should involve the entire host community.

For this project, our intended audience is native Massachusetts residents. The aim of the project is to make native MA residents get to know the refugee populations in their communities. We chose to focus on the state’s top three host cities for refugees, using data from the BuzzFeed US Refugee Relocation Dataset. We decided to use the total refugee population of cities, because upon looking at the data we were surprised to see that Boston wasn’t the top city, and felt that native MA residents would also share this reaction about the largest city in their state. We also used information from the US Department of State.

To contextualize our project, we provided information about the number of refugees relocated in the US and gave some background information on the relocation process. This information points to the length of the process, the effort required to actually be relocated to the US and the extent of the vetting process in order to give an idea of how hard it is to get to the USA as a refugee. While not part of our main message, this information was important for us to include because it humanizes the refugee population and helps combat some of the common misconceptions that refugees are a threat.   

We chose the map structure because it is an image that every MA resident can relate to. We ‘physicalized’ the data in 3D bars that represent each of the top-3 refugee populations in each city. We chose the bar shape both because it is very legible and because it resembles a building, an image that situates our project within the urban and/or social context of each city. By adding the interactive element of having a sample card in the highest bar, we hope to engage our audience in a physical action intending to reveal more information about refugee population in that city. It was important for us to include a call to action as part of our project. For this reason, each card includes information about a community initiative that helps refugees, together with ways in which people can volunteer/contribute to that initiative’s efforts. The image on the backs of each card quite literally gives a glimpse into the lives of refugee populations in MA, featuring some cultural symbols from the top refugee populations in Springfield, Boston and Worcester. These images come together to reveal a larger image of the side of an apartment building. This intends to bring across our message for the need of of integration of refugee and native communities and to show how we are already all living side-by-side.



data sculpture


Data Log for Monday February 8th – Argyro Nicolaou

In chronological order:

1. Sent Whatsapp messages to 2 friends
2. Screenshot from pdf in dropbox saved to evernote x2
3. Created new Note in Evernote
4. Google search ‘Fetty Wap House of Blues’
5. Google search ‘Post Malone’
6. iMessage x 30
7. Submitted a cross registration petition to Harvard’s Registrar
8. Called Registrar
9. Made calendar entry for meeting on Feb 23
10. Sent email to SZ
11. Create vocabulary quiz for students on MWord
12. Sent ERW (tutee) an email re: our class tomorrow
13. Created Unit 16 vocabulary document for students
14. Upload Unit 16 vocabulary on canvas
15. Emailed advisor
16. Took an Uber survey
17. Google search for a greek word
18. Phone call w VP in NYC
19.  Liked posts on FB
20. Google searched ‘Charlemagne’
21. Unsubscribed from Nordstrom email list
22. Clicked through FB post to imgur and a greek website
23. Opened NYTimes mobile app
24. Opened twitter app; retweeted NYTimes World tweet
25. Sent documents to Harvard library
26. Used FB messenger app
27. Clicked on web link in email
28. Used Uber app to get cab x 2
29. Google searched ‘Classical Greece and the Mediterranean’
23. Tweeted x3
24. Clicked through MSNBC tweet & watched MNSBC video

The Fallen of World War II

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The Fallen of World War II is an interactive, data-driven documentary about the casualties of WWII. The documentary’s punchline, however, is that despite contemporary sentiments and contrary to what the media may make us feel, we are in fact living in a period of ‘long peace’. What this means is that we are now less likely than ever before in the recorded history of mankind (!) to die in battle.

The documentary’s central data visualization tool – the bar chart – is simple and accessible. The beauty of this piece is that it uses the easily legible bar chart in exciting new ways that really drive home some of the most insightful points that the documentary makes. For example, in order to highlight the extent of military casualties of the Soviet Union, the video slowly follows a new bar that rises up for almost a whole minute, eventually towering above the equivalent bars that detail German and French military casualties. This toggling between micro and macro views of the data on offer helps the viewer realize both the overall human life cost of WWII but also how each country fared comparatively to one another. What’s more, the sound effect used when each bar is presented – which alludes to casino chips falling – highlights the way civilians and soldiers alike were often used as pawns by their respective governments.

Besides the inventive use of the bar chart, the documentary is effective for many reasons. Together with a cross-country comparison, the documentary offers the number of casualties from each country involved in the conflict across time. The interactive bar chart (seen in the image below) allows for multiple variables to be taken in at once: month and year, nationality and even specific battles/events are available for the user to browse through.Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 12.52.05 PM

Another effective technique in this documentary is the presentation of the same data in different ways. For example, when talking about the number of Jews killed during WWII, the documentary first arranges that data per country, and then arranges it again by cause of death (gas chambers; mobile killing squads etc).

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Beyond data visualization tools, the documentary uses narration and still photography in a way that (1) ensures the audience understands the data presented and (2) adds a ‘human’ and historic element to the story.

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