Presented By O'Reilly and Cloudera
Make Data Work
5–7 May, 2015 • London, UK

Data science as art: Visual storytelling with smartphone tracking data

Benedikt Koehler (DataLion)
14:10–14:30 Tuesday, 5/05/2015
Data-Driven Business Day
Location: Buckingham Room Palace Suite
Average rating: ***..
(3.44, 9 ratings)
Slides:   1-PDF 

Prerequisite Knowledge

None required


Smartphones and other mobile devices are among the most interesting data sources for empirical analysis of consumer behavior and attitudes. Marketers use this data to make footfall predictions to shops and media agencies to identify and target audiences in geo-local settings. Market researchers can gather insights on media usage in three dimensional space (which site or app, when, where?).

But this is only half the story. In this talk I will demonstrate a new take on smartphone data that can be described as a hybrid between data science and art.

The creative approach of data analysis as art, which originated in the first exhibition on “Big Data Art” in Munich, aims at the underused human capability for visual pattern recognition. My talk will touch the following topics:

- Common and uncommon technologies for data-munging millions of mobile data points, e.g. on using software for genome analysing to identify and compare mobile web sessions
- Approaches for adding useful context to the data points, e.g. the almost magical transformation of locations to places that can be done by combining mobile GPS / cell-tower triangulation data with OpenStreetMap data
- Recipes for integrating the different mobile data structures into an integrated picture of consumer behavior, e.g. combining content (web pages visited by smartphone users) and context (time, date, location)
- Finally, how to build colorful and artistic data products from these data sources that open up visual insights into human behavior in media, space, and time, e.g. from pointillistic visualizations of millions of mobile data-points, to interactive streaming flow-charts and heatmaps.

This chart will feature many practical examples of how data points can be transformed into something that resembles an “artwork-as-a-service,” but still has practical implications for media companies or advertisers.

Photo of Benedikt Koehler

Benedikt Koehler


Benedikt Köhler studied sociology, anthropology and psychology in Munich, where he received his PhD in 2006. After founding a mobile web start-up in the late 1990s, he worked as a consultant for Internet and media companies.

Benedikt is co-founder and CEO of DataLion, a Munich-based data science and visualization company. In 2008 he co-founded the Social Media Association, the first trade association for social media in Germany. In 2009 he joined social media intelligence company ethority as head of research and strategy. As ethority’s chief operating officer, he has been responsible for all operative business in Germany and abroad.

In January 2010, Benedikt co-wrote the “Slow Media Manifesto” on sustainable media production. The manifesto has sparked a worldwide movement and has been translated into 15 languages. Benedikt blogs about big data and information visualization at