NYC Food Crawl – ITP Winter Show 2013

This 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 view.


NYC Food Crawl is a physical data representation that uses diorama sets with live cockroaches, along with an accompanying screen-based visualization, to represent the frequency of vermin violations in New York City area restaurants. I took the restaurant food inspection results dataset from NYC OpenData and brought the main database and the violation codes database into Google Refine and Excel for cleaning. After cleaning this data and isolating the vermin-specific violation codes, I brought both of these datasets into Processing. By doing so, I was able to calculate how many restaurants were in each inspection grade level, how many of those restaurants had had a vermin-related violation recorded, and how many of those violations had occurred within the past year or sooner.

I then used these figures to build the physical part of the project: restaurant dioramas, one for each grade, with a representative amount of live cockroaches inserted into each one to reflect the data. I decided to keep the representation simple: the number of cockroaches in each grade’s diorama would represent the percentage of restaurants in that grade that had had a vermin violation. Since my order of cockroaches (linked if you’re curious – most people at the show were) came in mixed sizes, I decided to make cockroach size indicative of recency: the ratio of larger cockroaches to total cockroaches in each diorama is the ratio of recent violations to total violations. More simply, the more detectable the presence of the large cockroaches were in each box, the higher percentage of recent violations there were for that grade level.

A concern I had from the perspective of the viewer was that, while memorable and attention-getting, the cockroach dioramas provide a very shallow representation of the data. Also, viewers might receive a skewed representation of the data depending, as the cockroaches like to hide out of sight and may not be all visible at once. To address this, I built out an interactive graphical visualization in Processing that both emulates the physical display for each grade level and provides additional statistics. I also included statistics for the data sorted by borough instead of inspection grade level, in case viewers wanted to explore the data further. You can see a video of this below:


Here are some pictures of my setup for the show, with both the dioramas and screen visualization:





Here’s a selection of the puppets I’ve made over the course of this semester in PAPO:

This class was as much about performance (we put on two full shows) and building strange worlds and concepts as it was about constructing puppets. To that end, here’s a puppet show promo Valerie Chen and I made in which we pour a dirty fish tank into a toilet:


Large-Scale Projection – The Lighted Window



The Lighted Window was our final project for Poetry Everywhere. The assignment was to create a video piece based on a poem to project onto three stories of a building across the street from ITP. You can see the space that we were given to project on in this early projection test (involving chickens from our previous animation):


Xuedi and I decided that we wanted to make a final piece that would seem like a visitor from another world is breaking a barrier from their world into ours. We chose the poem “The Lighted Window” by Russell Edson because it fit well into the theme we envisioned. In the poem, the narrator is chasing an illuminated piece of paper that seems like a door to another place. For our projection, we decided to film Xuedi slowly exploring, feeling, pounding against, and ultimately tearing through a paper barrier that separates her environment from ours. We imagined that the paper barrier is similar to the paper that the narrator chases in the poem, and we filmed our footage on greenscreen so that we could easily insert an alternate world into the background of the video.

We wanted to make the video only viewable against the building’s six windows, so the black area in the final video was us masking out the rest of the building. Unfortunately, we were not able to get quality video footage of the actual projection on the building, but it was projected during the ITP 2013 Winter Show.