Data for Surf's Sake - Illustrating a subculture through interactive data visualisation and action sports trackers
Over the last two years action sports trackers have emerged for those seeking thrills in risk-taking sports (Mitchell, 2014). The data generated by these trackers is creating digitised representations of communities participating in action sports such as surfing. The surfing database comprises of activity all over the globe, and due to its size and complexity it can be categorised as big data. Understanding this complex database requires specific data visualisation methods which visually map relationships and patterns. This research asked: can an interactive data visualisation illustrate hierarchical, nomadic, and experiential aspects of the surfing subculture? This thesis is based on ethnographic research which focuses on exploring qualitative visualisations of the quantitative databases generated by action sports trackers for surfing. The research focused on the design of data visualisations which explored contemporary methods and principles of data visualisation and their applicability to communicate aspects of the surfing subculture. This manifested in the design of an interactive web application, Gone Surfing, which focused on global, local, and personal views which communicate Stranger’s (2011) substructure model of the surfing subculture. The hierarchical, nomadic, and experiential aspects of the surfing subculture are only known from long term immersion in the subculture itself. This design made these aspects explicit through the visualisation of the database. For example, pilgrimage’s to revered surfing locations and hierarchy within local communities, and a surfer’s relationship with the waves are forms of implicit knowledge which were made explicit. The final creative output, Gone Surfing, visualises these aspects in an interactive web application consisting of global, local, and personal views to each communicate an aspect effectively. The interactive visualisation allows non-surfers to explore the subculture while enhancing a surfer’s understanding of their position within the surfing nation.