What If My Life Was The Economy Of A Small Country?
Lillian Karabaic has been producing annual reports based on her hand-collected data for 10 years. In this video, she show off her 2016 report, which chronicles her finances, health, and rapid career change in the style of The Economist magazine.
I’m Lillian. I really like regression and random data walks on the beach. I kind of have a data tracking problem. As a child, starting at six years old I took an annual census of my stuffed animals and recorded all of the data, including their salaries which apparently was paid in like peanuts for the elephant and bamboo to the panda. And I kept that up for like six years with logs, so it’s not really any wonder that I became an economist I guess.
So when I was 20 years old, in 2007, I began tracking statistics about myself in a giant Excel spreadsheet. And there was no plan I just kind of walked out of the ocean and into data tracking. I didn’t have any idea why I was doing it, I just kept doing it. coffee, alcohol, mood, miles, health just every day, cofee, mood, miles.
And looking back at my first spreadsheet I was mainly just impressed of how much I got laid when I was 20 years old. But I started expanding this project to take a funnel every day, and this was partially just because this was back before iPhones, fit bits were commonplace. So people were just really weirded out about why I did this. So I kind of turned it into a visual project, in order to make people kind of feel better about it.
And I started making zines every year and I had been making zines for a long time, so I turned the data into like a heathen Christmas card that I would send out every year. And it was simple and cute in the beginning it was just you know, comics about my life with some data interlaced.
I didn’t know a lot of interesting insights into the data. It was just coffee, alcohol, miles, health, mood every time. But it all changed in 2010, and that’s because I entered the dark world of regression analysis. I went to school for economics and learned the dismal science, and suddenly the data could mean something. It wasn’t just coffee, alcohol, miles, bikes, moods, health. I could look for correlations.
I learned a program called R, which besides being impossible to Google based on its name alone, R lets you look at correlations and it turns out that I didn’t learn a lot. That’s actually not that much data. I learned that I drink slightly more when I’m in a relationship with my ex-girlfriend than I do when I’m single, and that burritos make my mood better.
2012, I got an iPhone though, and suddenly I could collect an amazing amount of data. Not only did it kind of speed up my manual data collection, I had Ra, so I was able to use this specific app that totally is just the Standard but it kind of looks like me. I think every woman with RA must look like me, and Lumen Trails app. And once again trying to find a way to put chaos to all of this data, I decided oh I should totally take a picture of everything I buy for an entire year and put it on the Internet. That makes sense.
And this is kind of like my continual quest to make all this pointless data seem interesting and get something out of it, right, and turn it into art. So the zines got a little more complicated when I got an iPhone. They stopped just being a comic, and this is how much coffee I drank, but they started going into all of these things. I started having maps. I used to actually literally just take MapQuest and calculate out how far my bike group was, and then add that together every day and put it into an Excel spreadsheet.
Now I had beautiful maps like this. I started drilling more correlations, and it turns out it’s still not that interesting. When you’re only tracking what I’m tracking yeah you know whatever, I find out that burritos make my mood better and that’s about all I really found out. But it looks cute, right. That’s important.
And the main thing is that putting together these zines every year has sort of become a way to look at my life. It helps me analyze the data and reflect that back on my life, and as a contrast it’s connecting with other people. I have a mailing list of hundreds of people all over the world, that I sit down and I spend like 50 hours putting it together these zines. And I spend like two weeks sitting down, folding and stapling and mailing them all over the world.
And last year, I made a huge career change. And I had to put together a zine so I became – I worked for the Democratic Party last year. Even if you’re not American you are proudly aware that 2016, working in American politics was a crap monster. And I was working 80 hour weeks. I had defaults on my voicemail every day, I was miserable and I left the job very quickly.
And the thing about that, trying to synthesize an actual dumpster fire into a zine, look at it and go okay, how am I going to explain this? How am I going to synthesize this year and explain it away? It’s like what is a tool? Who constantly has to take complex data and turn it into something? Well the Economist!
The Economist is a kind of a model for hey you know, if you want complex data and if you want to make predictions that are probably false, ask an economist. So I said all right, I am going to take the dismal science of economics’ and try to apply it to the dumpster fire that was my life in 2016. I borrowed their fonts, their layouts as much as I possibly could and I approached the question of WTF happened to me last year.
And so I kind of framed it with the question of what if my life was the economy of a small country. I looked at my top exports and imports, which was hot sauce, whiskey and medication. My 2016 burrito imports were at a 10 year low, probably had something to do with my terrible mood.
I usually have 3 to 5 jobs at a time, and one problem I always have is explaining to people my jobs. So I made a transit map of my career, and I also looked at my beverage economy statistics. Helpful, I took a picture of every whiskey that I drink in that year, because I don’t know, that’s important!
So I looked at kind of all of the statistics about how much I spent on this and looked at my beverage economy.
I also borrowed really really heavily, and how do you look at what a day looks like when the day is the worst day that you’ve ever had every single day. Which it was when I was working in the Democratic Party, every day was worse than the day before. And so I looked at the individual days. I borrowed that from Nicolas Feltron.
And then I also had to make a map of leaving a job in less than 90 days. Remember this gets sent all over the world. I have all of these people that know me professionally that gets this zine in the mail. And I had to figure out a way to explain like I just left a job in less than three months and it was terrible!
I also looked at my diplomacy obviously, which is all the conferences that I went to mainly. And I also kind of was looking at like okay what does the data look like, right. The rule of economics is that for every economist that exists is an equal and opposite economist, and they are probably both wrong. And so I kind of try to interpret my data in a way where you could look at either side of it.
Yeah, that’s pretty much it. If you would like a zine, and find me please, I’m not taking these home.