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: