Andrew Cerrito


This article was written on 18 Nov 2013, and is filled under Data Representation, Proposals/Research.

Project Proposal – NYC Food Crawl


To see how the project was presented in the ITP Winter Show, click here.


After making screen-based projects in class, I’d like to try to make a representation in the physical realm. I have a sort of gross idea that I have some logistical/ethical questions about, but that I think would garner some visceral reactions.

I was considering analyzing NYC restaurant health violations to create an index of the quantity/severity of restaurant health infractions per borough (if not for all five, then at least for Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn). For each borough, I would then construct a miniature diorama-esque scene of a restaurant dining room enclosed within a clear, labeled acrylic box. Based on the analysis of the dataset, I would then insert a representative amount of live cockroaches into each restaurant scene and put them on public display.

1) What is your dataset? 

The restaurant inspection results dataset posted on NYC OpenData. Specifically, I would be using the borough and  health violation categories to try to gain a clear picture of violations by borough.

2) What is the medium?

At least 3 fully-enclosed restaurant diorama scenes and live cockroaches.

3) What is the central question?

To be completely honest, I’m more interested in this style of presentation than in the actual dataset itself. Most people have very visceral and negative reactions to the presence of cockroaches. I’m sure I can use this initial shock value to attract people’s attention to the display, but is that enough to sustain interest and have the audience see the larger picture? I am thinking of it as a kind of experiment to see if I can effectively leverage people’s disgust to provide at least a marginally clarifying experience.

4) Other questions:

– Is it too unethical to use living organisms to represent data? Operationally, I would need to design a way to access the interior of the dioramas (in order to provide food – I’m not interested in cockroach sadism) while ensuring that they will not escape for the duration of the installation. The issue of air holes provides a similar concern. Also, there’s the question how to transfer the roaches into these environments without the equivalent of a cockroach prison break.

– Is this interpretation of the data too “flat”/one-sided to be a valuable/effective representation? A classmate commented that this idea would provide a strictly negative viewpoint with no balancing factors and I agree that this could be a pretty big flaw. I think this idea in general still needs some further iterating but it’s what I have for now.


One Comment

  1. […] post assumes knowledge of the concept behind this project. To view the project proposal, click here. The Processing code that I wrote is posted on Github. Click here to […]

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