Illuminating Data

A light installation on mobile communication

Almost wherever you go you can see people communicating through their phones. What assumptions can you make by looking into the call data not knowing what was said or who it was that communicated, only that someone had a need to call another person at that specific time and day. So what does one year worth of call data look like? What makes people pick up the phone and make a call? What can we understand by just looking at the data, no context, no explanation? This project aimed to give the viewer an experience of the calls made by 2.1 million people in Norway for one year, every day and every hour.


This master thesis project explored tangible visualisation of big data exploring the possibilities of using light as a medium to communicate data. The installation visualized 2.1 million of Telenor customers’ phone call activity and pattern over the course 24 hours for 365 days (2013) The data was displayed in a circular structure divided into four parts for each quarter of the year, with one acrylic rod dynamically displaying 24 hours of data for each day of the year exploring national patterns of mobile communication. Every hour was comprised down to 5 seconds, so that the viewer could see the whole cycle in two minutes.


The project had an extensive research phase, an explorative phase and a concept development and execution phase. The research was based on interviews, co-creation workshops as well as reading theory on visualisations, communication and experience design.


The findings from this project show that using light to display
data attracts attention and creates a immersive feeling of
the patterns in the data that is not achievable with a graphic display. The viewer was able to stand in the middle of the data, observing it changing over time.


If you want to see the installation run through a cycle of 24 hours in two minutes, please visit this video of the installation – hour by hour. If you are interested in how the installation was physically made, please visit this video of the building process

To read more about the research, process and exploration, please visit the Project report


The project was done at The Oslo School of Architecture and Design together with Mona Kleven Lauritzen in collaboration with the Telenor Group.


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