London Under the Microscope by Valentina D'Efilippo
London Under the Microscope is a short data-driven film, commissioned by the Museum of London, which narrates through visuals and sound the first year of the pandemic.
As the world was reshaped by the coronavirus, this project attempts to document through the lens of data art the unprecedented challenges, change, and loss that London and its inhabitants were experiencing – from 1st March 2020 until 28th February 2021. Each second is one day.
The data encoding is rich and dense. The artwork doesn’t provide a conclusive answer to how Covid-19 has transformed the city, but rather aims to provide a framework that can help viewers reflect on their lived experience.
About the Data Visualization:
The multi-layered data visualization system borrows the visual language of the 3D images of the Covid-19 virus, which ‘branded’ the invisible disease giving the pandemic a visual identity.
The ‘spikes’ – responsible for the corona-like surface, and the most distinguishing feature of coronavirus – represent the London boroughs. The spike’s length grows with the passing of time: a new disc appears every day and its area is scaled to illustrate the number of reported cases per day. Attached to the spikes, there are the ‘proteins’: the daily deaths – small spheres that pop in and out. As they dissolve, they add up to a cumulative counter which fills the screen and dramatically changes the scene.
On the surface of the virus, subtle motion graphics like curved lines, mark the mobility in each local authority area of London, as indicated by the use of public transport. This draws from Google Mobility data reports. We see the city opening up during the summer of 2020, with more particles moving in the visualization. Over time, a deep red transforms the virus’ surface to illustrate the death toll and how some areas have been more affected than others. The different shades reflect the deaths, per 100,000 of the population.
Vaccines are introduced in December 2020 with filaments growing from the virus (one line represents 100 vaccinations), and creating a positive and hopeful halo effect.Finally, to mark the passing of time and give context to the visualization, a list of curated events is displayed on screen, the position marks a different type of entry (quotes, data commentary, events, trending words).
About the Data Sonification:
Data is turned into music. A heartbeat sounds once per second throughout the track, representing the passage of time and the growth of the virus inside the bodies of its hosts. Deaths are represented by the loudness of a low droning sound, which audibly peaks during the first wave. Case numbers are represented by a chord of several higher-pitched drones, with each pitch representing a different strain of the virus. The chord subtly changes as new mutations emerge, rise and fall. Movement of people through transit stations is represented by the bassline - with more movement being associated with more notes in the same space of time. During the peak of each lockdown, just one bass note pulses per second. Towards the end of the animation, a new sound appears - with its volume reflecting the proportion of Londoners who've been vaccinated.