Did you know that noise complaints are the no. 1 quality-of-life issue for city residents? The folks over at Movity.com, before being acquired by Trulia, decided to tackle this issue as a first step in providing detailed information about life quality of different city districts with the TenderNoise project.

In a partnership with Arup and Stamen Design, Movity contributed and worked on the application for the CityCentered Festival 2010. Using decibel readers at major intersections in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, they collected the data in a rather rough resolution, but were able to track over 1.6 million data points for a weekend and weekday. The visualization shows the measured noise levels as bubbles on a map in conjunction with an animated time series that shows the absolute values over time.

What I like about the visualization is, intended or not, the exploration of flicker as a attribute to represent information. Areas with extreme variations in noise level seem more “nervous”. While flicker isn’t a precisely readable attribute, it is definitely capable to convey information to the user. Leveraging the digital medium we have more visual features, like direction and velocity of motion, at our disposal (see Perception in Visualization by Christopher G. Healey).

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