On the one hand, it can be downright nauseating to consider how much of your data is out there, being collected by companies. On the other, your personal path through life can be downright gorgeous, if only you have the coding and design expertise to take that data by the reins and visualize it.
A new service called Etch is bringing cutting-edge personal data viz to the masses. All you need to do is log into the page with your Foursquare account, and Etch will create a frame-worthy map of all the places you’ve been—and how often you’ve been there.
"Before the world was explored, circumnavigated, and measured, maps were drawn by adventurers, explorers, and artists," Etch co-founder Michael Yap tells Co.Design. "With Etch, anyone can become a mapmaker, creating maps of their personal data."
If you’re a personal data quantification geek—and yes, that’s an extremely specific branch of geekdom—you may find Etch familiar. In fact, its greatest inspiration was the work of Nicholas Felton (formerly of Facebook), who each year prints the stunning, deep-digging Feltron Report. And as it happens, Felton didn’t just inspire Etch, he actually taught Yap his own methodology in Visualizing Information, a class Felton taught for a just semester at SVA right before leaving for Facebook.
"Nicholas is an exceptionally generous teacher," Yap writes. "He shared many, if not all, of the methods he developed over the years and years of creating his annual reports with my class."
As Etch just launched, its feature set is fairly barebones. It’s only working for Portland, San Francisco, and Manhattan (though Brooklyn is inbound). And it cuts a wide swath of your adventures, lifting every place you’ve checked in, rather than, say, just restaurants or theaters. But as Etch refines its code, Yap imagines crafting maps that are more specific. It’s not hard to imagine the appeal of a custom map of your favorite dive bars, or the places you’ve checked in most often with a significant other (which would make a romantic anniversary gift, no?).
If you’d like an Etch print of your own, they run $48 apiece.