The Sexperience 1000
The Sexperience 1000
This careful design reveals individualities in the quantified statistic representation. How the sex life of a eighteen-year old girl in London is similar to and different from that of a 58-year-old man in Yorkshire?
The Sexperience 1000
The Sexperience 1000 is an interactive data visualiser that shows the sexual behaviours and preferences of one thousand British individuals, representative of the nation. It concisely illustrates many different aspects of our sexual lives from an overall, big picture perspective while allowing you to close in to each individual. Users can filter respondents by region, age and more, and can track groups of respondents across questions, or even follow an individual.
The data from the 1000 individuals has been derived from the 7,500 participants of the ‘Great British Sex Survey’ conducted by Ipsos MORI for Channel 4 in 2011.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
The Sexperience 1000 is attached to Sexperience, a website aimed at providing sex education for teenagers. One of the most popular sections of Sexperience is “Questions & Answers”, where users are able to ask questions they have about sex, with other users volunteering the answers.
We took the most popular questions from this section and made a word cloud that displayed the frequency with which the words in the questions appeared. By far the most prevalent word was ‘normal’. Upon further analysis, it was striking to see just how many of the questions centered around the idea of being normal.
Upon presenting our findings to our client, Channel 4, they asked us to explore the idea of ‘normality’ for Sexperience. Serendipitously, we discovered they were intending to conduct a survey for the Sex Education TV Show, and subsequently set ourselves a challenge: what can we do with this data?3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
Sexperience 1000 is built around disproving the very idea of ‘normal’ when it comes to sex, with a reductio ad absurdum – a proof by contradiction: If we can show that no one is normal, then everyone must be.
The subject matter of sex and data visualisation is an interesting juxtaposition in itself. We decided to represent each individual in the 1000 as what they are – a person. Data, by definition, is impersonal. Sex is the exact opposite. Representing every person as a character shows that they’re not just data points, they’re humans.
We wanted interactivity and education to be at the heart of this project. Each member of the 1000 is represented onscreen at any given time and individually animated with their sexual history. Being a part of Sexperience, it was also important to include a sense of real experiences. Both playful and engaging, the Sexperience 1000 encourages people to create scenarios by using the filters along the side and by doing so, paints a much more personal picture.
For example, by using the filters people are able to see that those in the South of England are the most likely to have had sex in a swimming pool, Jazz/Blues music listeners are more likely to have had sex on a beach and Asda shoppers prefer to have sex with the lights off (Co-op, Waitrose and M&S shoppers prefer the lights on). Real people, real experiences.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
A data visualiser starts with the data. We worked with Ipsos MORI, a specialist market research company, to capture the data that informed Sexperience 1000. The data itself is nationally representative of the UK as a whole.
Before commencing the production, we went through a week-long design discovery phase – sketching, exploring and looking for the easiest to infer, yet most visually interesting ways to represent the data sets. We were careful to enable freedom to explore, without making the data come across as sensationalist.
The audience for Sexperience 1000 is early teen and up and has an educational remit. We talk frankly about sex and different sex acts through the product, as per the Sexperience philosophy. However, we have found the Sexperience 1000 to be fascinating for all sorts of audiences outside of its immediate target group, such as infographic fans.
Our inspirations for the visual style included everything from data representations by Edward Tufte to 8-bit arcade games. We aimed to walk a line smack bang in the middle of those.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
Sex is seldom spoken about in a public forum. We believe this to be a regressive trait. By presenting data in an accessible format on a subject that is normally hidden, we hope to make it easier to begin discussions about sex and sexual issues.
Since the days of Kinsey, statistics regarding sexual behaviour have been discussed widely. But we felt these discussions tended to overlook the experience of the individual, and the personal aspect of sex. We set out to address this imbalance with The Sexperience 1000.
Teenagers appear to be driven by a desire to not fit in. Ironically, it is this collective desire towards non-conformity that provides a sense of identification within their peer relationships. The hidden, unknown nature of sex to them is a little different. With no definition of ‘normal’, and a lack of insight into what society defines to be normal, this becomes a fundamental worry. The huge number of similar questions on the Sexperience site demonstrates this vividly.
The Sexperience 1000 shows that no matter how weird you think you are, there is someone out there who is even weirder than you. And that’s OK. Because there is no such thing as normal, it’s simply whatever you define it to be.