Sweet dissatisfaction: using map art to understand NYC’s most common complaints

Media artist Diet­mar Offen­hu­ber has used data gen­er­at­ed by two years of 311 com­plaints to cre­ate an inter­ac­tive map of New York­ers’ most com­mon com­plaints. (h/t to Curbed and Atlantic Cities.)

The 311 line is New York City’s ded­i­cat­ed gov­ern­ment infor­ma­tion ser­vice line, through which res­i­dents can access pro­gram infor­ma­tion and also sub­mit com­plaints and requests. Offen­hu­ber divid­ed the com­plaints into three types: lit­ter (blue), graf­fi­ti (red), and noise (green), and as the map’s key indi­cates, areas of over­lap­ping com­plaint can be iden­ti­fied by inter­me­di­ate col­ors. (As ele­gant as it is for design pur­pos­es, dis­play­ing just three types of com­plaint prob­a­bly miss­es the full spec­trum of like­ly 311 calls.)

Com­plaints are mapped onto a block-by-block grid of the city, cre­at­ing a col­or­ful dia­gram of each area’s most fre­quent prob­lem. Beyond sim­ply being a beau­ti­ful ren­der­ing of civic frus­tra­tion, the map can be used as an edu­ca­tion tool to high­light neigh­bor­hood-speci­fic con­cerns. For exam­ple, high-traf­fic Man­hat­tan appears in green, as noise com­plaints are the most com­mon in the bor­ough. The Bronx and much of Queens seem to suf­fer pri­mar­i­ly from graf­fi­ti prob­lems, and Staten Island and much of Brook­lyn are both­ered by lit­ter. The map also allows view­ers to zoom in, reveal­ing hid­den idio­syn­crasies. For exam­ple, some major streets in Harlem share the prob­lem of lit­ter; Chi­na­town too suf­fers from seri­ous graf­fi­ti issues.  You can even zoom in to see what prob­lems are plagu­ing your block and neigh­bor­hood.

Check out some of Offenhuber’s oth­er green-mind­ed work, such as “Trash Track­ing,” at his web­site.

Image: Diet­mar Offen­hu­ber