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Black Star

David Bowie live through data

Data Visualization | 02 2016 

When rock stars die, they are never gone. They continue to be memorialized by millions of their fans, music lovers, and the public. Their songs are played again and again, and as cultural icons, their life stories are discovered, passed on, and exaggerated year after year.

"Black Star" is a data visualization exploring the “aliveness” of David Bowie through data. Based on the database of the Seattle Public Library from 2006-2015, I visualize the checkout times and durations of David Bowie’s related items. 


MAT End of Year Show, 2016


A computer program written with SQL and Processing


The visualization is based on the event-river model, which regards each event as a characteristic creature in the river of time. The metaphor of river and fish inspires me to think of more possibilities of the visualization. In this project, I develop this 2D model into a 3D dynamic interface. 

Special thanks to

Zhenyu Yang

- a Course project in Data Visualization, teaching by Professor George Legrady

Black Star - Sketch


The data visualization consists of the “river" and “creatures". The river serves as the container of all the checkout events of David Bowie’s related items in the Seattle Public Library. The x-axis is the timeline from 2006-2015, and the y-axis shows all the titles of the items. Z-axis displays each checkout event on the same day with the same title.

The creature represents one single checkout event by the reader.  It has two main characteristics: the checkout times and duration. They are mapped to the events with two different methods: the scale and motion. In the scale model, the checkout durations are mapped to the tail length, and checkout times are mapped to the square size. In the motion mode, the checkout duration is mapped to the tail’s rotation, and the checkout time is mapped to its fluctuation. The motion mode provides the audience with a more vivid experience of the data.

User Interaction

An audience can experience the visualization object from a general view or explore the data in detail with a different type of mouse interaction. When the label switch is turned off, the user can examine the detailed data of one checkout event by clicking on one creature. When the label switch is turned on, the user can examine a whole row of data with the same title by moving a mouse in that row. The motion of those creatures will also be exaggerated to provide a clearer comparison. 

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