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Ungathered Thoughts

Unreliable narrator

I have been putting together a set of ETL migrations[1] which capture data points from online systems I interact with day to day. I think of this as a narrator, but rather than telling a coherent story, it observes events that occur without understanding them in context.

Many of the applications and systems we use - social media websites, health and fitness trackers, finance systems, business tools, conveniences and entertainments, all interoperate with us online via data endpoints.

By capturing a stream of data from various sources, we can observe the digital/data footprint that these sources relate to, and visualise it.

Why (re)capture these data points? I became interested thinking of the record of each day which could be reconstructed from services I use as part of regular daily process or daily habits and associated data streams. I do enjoy the challenge of "solving" ETL transforms (puzzles, think Sudoku), so it was easy to keep building from there. The results are entertaining!

I'm really interested in the portability and visibility of data as it relates to our ownership and responsibilities to the same. Consciousness of "our data" may feel like new territory to be plundered, but our stories are what make us who we are. How do these streams of personal digital record interplay with each of our stories?

Whatever we might collect with a handful of sources and transformations will be only a tiny fraction of available data in a sea of analytics and tracking information.

Beneath the surface, in deep, dark data lakes, swamps and oceans, digital systems dream targetable entities of each of us. Computer toucher guardians spill data from place to place, confident in their ability to extract value without harm, echoing the errors of their ancestors.

Physical and digital devices study us to determine how best to feed their appetites. We exist in their realm, perhaps unaware of, perhaps uncomfortably disregarding their watchful gaze.

The animation on this page decontextualises a subset of my own recently captured data. I wouldn't dare expose the feed directly ... here I'm teasing, baiting those predatory devices which crawl online spaces with a crude depiction of event data I hold about myself.

A sample of my most recent events are depicted, represented by an emoji per service type. What do these images represent, what might they tell you about my day? Why would you care? Machines are hungry for this knowledge - why?


  1. Events are harvested in a Drupal 10 site via Migrate, stored as entities. JSON API is used to expose these to the build process for the Eleventy site. The Eleventy site retrieves the entities and embeds an associated service emoji and UUID here. There's no need for the UUID. Animations are applied in javascript + CSS but use no source data beyond the symbol animated. โ†ฉ๏ธŽ

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