While the entertainment world is buzzing about last night’s multi-celebrity selfie, data viz fans have been drooling over Selfiecity, an exploratory tool for examining selfie behavior across five global cities.
What’s in a selfie?
Or, more accurately, what’s in 3200 selfies?
Selficity, a new tool from new media theorist Lev Manovich and data visualization expert Moritz Stefaner, offers an exploratory window into the world of the digital self portrait. The system uses a database of 3200 selfies, each identified from a large pool of Instagram photos by workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. These images come from five cities across the world (Bangkok, Berlin, New York, Moscow & Sao Paolo), and visitors can use an intuitive interface to see how patterns emerge from geography, gender and age.
Do selfie-ers in Brazil smile more than Instagram users in Moscow? (Yes.)
Do women tend to tilt their heads more than men when they’re taking a selfie? (Yes.)
These questions might seem frivolous, and indeed, with such a small pool of photographs, you’d be right to question the accuracy of the answers. Still, Selfiecity offers a peek into the opportunities that big data and creative interface design can provide for the digital humanities. It also provides a working model for what an exploratory data tool can be. While most visualizations offer a limited number of conclusions to be drawn from the data, Selfiecity largely leaves the answers to the users of the tool.
Which means there is ample room for selfie-exploration.