Visualizing listening history

September 7, 2009


Lee Byron has created this visualization of the listening history of a last.fm user. In this visualization, the x axis is time, and the y axis shows the number of plays associated with various artists. Lee calls this a ‘layered histogram’. When plotted on paper, the visualization for 18 months of listening data is about 7 feet long.  The visualization is fascinating way to view how one’s listening taste changes over time.  Lee’s visualization reminds me of the Genealogy of Rock visualization that uses a similar (but hand drawn) layered histogram to represent the various artists and genres and how their popularities change over time.  Lee also has some other examples of visualizing last.fm listening data.

Lee’s  graphic is a stacked graph where each colored layer represents a musician, progressing from left to right through the eighteen month span growing wider when listening was more frequent, and skinnier when it was not.  The layout method is unique, dubbed a “Stream Graph,” it acts to have the least amount of distortion to the graph and is responsible for generating the elegant non-symmetrical curves

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