Data Human Portraits

Mood series

Catarina Sampaio


Nowadays, in a more or less conscious manner, we produce, share, use, and archive immense amounts of information, through web applications and tools embedded in the mobile devices we use on a daily basis. The data we produce are often accessible to Big Data companies that, according to a commercial perspective, aim at establishing consumer profiles. Considering that this kind of approach fails to capture our sensitivity and humanity, Data Human Portraits is defined as an auto-ethnographic project that utilizes participant observation and the collection of personal data in order to highlight the concrete and sensitive dimension of our lives.


The project explores the expressive qualities of the visualization of data, whose sample focuses on aspects inherent to personal experience, such as states of humor, energy and interpersonal interactions. The data are collected by monitoring everyday activities via daily records, phone sensors and use of web and mobile applications.


The resulting visualizations have an abstract character, seeking to emphasize the aesthetic qualities of the visual representation of information. They are put together in a print publication that works like a diary, in which each page corresponds to a day. Two levels of information address, respectively, the mood variation through a gradient and the daily factor influencing it. Processing is used to automate the analysis of information and the creation of visualizations, which are articulated with manually created graphics.


Data Human Portraits thus proposes a reflection on the current tendency towards the quantification of everything around us, including the most subjective aspects of human life. It seeks to question the objectivity of data visualization and its supposed impartiality, valuing the assumptions and decisions that are a reflection of this same subjectivity.

the data

personal data
data art