You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) was created as a final project for a Data Visualization at Parsons School of Design. It is a collection of interviews conducted with acquaintances and visualizations based off of a small-scale survey. The title, which both references a quote from one interviewee and Sylvester's 1978 disco hit, underlines the project's assertion of the importance of nightlife and social gathering as an area of study for understanding the LGBTQ+ experience.
Print Design, Data Visualization, Interviewing
This project was motivated by my frustration at the relative lack of data collection on the LGBTQ+ community. In 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that it would not be following an Obama-era proposal to include questions on sexual orientation to the 2020 census, continuing an official erasure of the queer community from official tallying, and, by extension, a seat at the table for social policy-making. A lack of large-scale government-collected data ensures that issues affecting the community will continue to be unidentified and unaddressed.
Data is a useful tool for storytelling. In addition to my frustrations at the policy implications of a lack of comprehensive data sets on LGBTQ+ people, I felt dissatisfaction that there weren’t more types of stories to tell about the community from the data sets available. The vast majority of comprehensive and publicly available data sets concern research on the impact of HIV/AIDS on the queer community. While this data is hugely important, reducing the experience and concerns of the community to one issue both furthers traditional narratives that stigmatize and pathologize LGBTQ+ people and fails to capture the richness of experience embodied in queer lives.
I set out to gather new data sets and capture new stories. While the endeavor was by necessity small-scale and anecdotal, it served as a gesture towards a future in which these stories are better valued and recorded.
I focused my research on aspects of the queer experience that seemed essential to me but infrequently told: the ways in which queer people gather and meet. While the “coming out” narrative has become acknowledged by mainstream culture as a foundational moment in queer self-actualization, what about the first time someone went to a gay bar? What about all of the moments of community-making that happen both in person and online that shape their view of themselves and their peers?
Using an anonymous Google Survey advertised on social media, I gathered data from LGBTQ+ respondents (primarily in the United States). The sample set was too small to be considered "scientific," but rather served as a qualitative expression and snapshot of the community in 2017. It captured demographic information including age, location, sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, questions such as "how far do you typically travel to get to a bar or club catering to a queer audience?" invited participants to share aspects of their relationship to a broader community.
This data was used to create visualizations that either encapsulated one specific question or drew comparisons between different data points.
The final design of the book lays out visualizations alongside interview transcripts. The transcripts have already been "coded," a technique of highlighting relevant passages for analysis commonly used in qualitative design research. By presenting multiple layers of data and context, the book allows readers to draw their own connections and creates an emotional response often absent in data-driven work.