A quest for meaning from data

Surrounded by Data is an ongoing research project the Method San Francisco studio kicked off earlier this year to explore the assumptions, opportunities, and potential implications of freeing data from interfaces and making it a useful part of our surroundings.

In today’s world of connected devices and sensors, we are seemingly inundated with visualizations of our personal data. Yet, somehow, our connection to our data remains screen-deep, failing to make its mark in the physical world.

As smart as smartphones and as sophisticated as computers have become, the way we know them might soon disappear as computing becomes more and more pervasive in our everyday environments. By disseminating data throughout the physical world, beyond the traditional multi-purpose personal devices of today, we have the potential to bring more meaningful connections in our daily life experiences.

Design Like You Can't Feel Fear by David Mayman + Tim Meador

Marquee event at 2016 SF Design Week with over 100 in attendance

Surrounded by Data was an event that we put together to understand the impact of all this information that we have in our lives. To bring it to life. To bring it into our world in such a way that it's a useful insight.

Paul Cloutier, Principal, Method


The answers collected from over 90 participants across demographics informed our perspective on five key themes about the perception and use of personal data in a given environment.

Information capturing our actual behaviors tends to be uncomfortable when it brings into question our self-perception.

The possibility to evoke any kind of information about oneself through an intelligent/sentient environment is scary for some.

The communication of personal data in the form of numbers is rudimentary and meaningless.

The types of data that are considered most relevant are based on feelings, health, personal activities, and ideas.

People are actually more comfortable seeing their information without the hard numbers. They just want the feeling.

David Mayman, Senior Interaction Design, Method