• 1 December 2012 - 31 May 2014

Rhythmanalysis, a Creative Exchange funded art project, collected the biological rhythms of 10 people from 2 different Liverpool based workplaces over a 24 hour period: 5 hairdressers from Minsky’s hairdressers and 5 game testers from Sony Computer Entertainment.

This data was used to design a physical art installation, recently shown at FACT, which visualised the biological rhythms of each employee over the course of the day allowing the viewer to see how different work environments impacted their physiology. The project had the ambitious aim of discovering whether or not we actually have, or can have, a discernable rhythm in our daily lives and if, within it, there is a consistency to the point that psychologists call flow - a place of well being, immersion and creativity that is an optimal condition for making the best work we can. Furthermore if we were to discern a rhythm to this flow, this sweet spot of the mind/body experience of work, can we create something that will help us manage, share and utilise this peculiar condition to enable a greater pleasure and efficiency in work?

The question remains intact and unresolved - the project was too constrained by time to reach any definitive conclusions. What we did discover however was that the right technology now exists to make large scale sampling of the right kind of data possible. We also hopefully have put together a possible observational technique or process, a first iteration methodology that may be helpful in informing a larger and longer term body of research in the field.  

By way of a description of the methodology we looked at in the development of the project, we started from one described by Daniel Kahneman in his international bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow to determine the level of “experienced well being” as “experience sampling”. The experience sampling method was originally a research methodology developed by psychologists Larson and Csikszentmihaly where they ask participants to stop at certain times and make notes of their experience in real time. Given the nature of the work we were looking at (hairdressing and games testing) this was not practical so we looked at Kahneman’s work with fellow Israel psychologist Amos Tversky (who together pioneered most of the work on heuristics in human decision-making) who took this research and created a second sampling method called the Day Reconstruction Method (DRM) that would create a space where the participants could revisit their previous day, breaking down their experiences into episodes, like scenes in a film, and using the experience sampling method to reconstruct their subjective experiences.

The technology provided by CamNTech enabled us to combine the two sampling methods, DRM and Experience Sampling, efficiently by asking a series of simple subjective and objective questions (listed in the appendix of the PDF publication available on the right) through the PRO-Diary wristwatch whilst the participants were engaged in their daily activities and a simple diary of their activities that they could fill it at their leisure at the end of the day. But it was not enough for us to simply report on the findings, the project was passing through too many other “registers” or lens in the team to be having a single unifying conclusion, including the lens of designers and artists. We’ve tried to reflect this in the approach we have taken to the design of this publication too, so rather than the standard pagination we have estimated how long we think it will take to read and absorb the content. Of course this will vary depending on how interested you are in the subject area, the context in which you are reading, the speed in which you can absorb content, your age, how distracted you become whilst reading it and so on. In our calculations if you are a modular person we estimate that you will take 63 minutes in total to consume this publication.

Below are several alternative visualisations of the collected data, each designed to provide the viewer with a different insight into the biological rhythms of the different workplaces and the people who work there.




For more information on these visualisations visit this blog post.


The Rhythmanalysis project has been developed by Roger McKinley (FACT), Richard Koeck (University of Liverpool) and Veronica Ranner (Royal College of Art, The Creative Exchange Hub) in consultation with Alistair Eilbeck (Amaze). Researcher Kiel Gilleade supported the project with body data collection and extraction via Liverpool John Moores University, achieved with in-kind sponsoring by CamNtech and their Actiheart and PRO-Diary watch systems.

Illustrations and physical Rhythmanalysis installation designs: Veronica Ranner (Royal College of Art). Actual Rhyhmanalysis installation and physical computing: Veronica Ranner (Royal College of Art) and Katja Knecht (Queen Mary University). This research project has been funded by the AHRC’s The Creative Exchange Hub at the Royal College of Art.

For the full publication including the research summary and data from the Rhythmanalysis project, please download the PDF file in the tab to the right of this article.

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