Knowing Everett Ruess is a qualitative data visualisation that interprets the personal relationships embedded in the letters written by the 1930s Californian explorer. The work juxtaposes 18 different relationships found in the body of letters, and aims to visualise the varying degrees of conversational breadth and emotional depth found in each relationship. The work aims to develop an understanding about the people in Everett’s life, and to use that knowledge to frame a deeper understanding of the polarities of an outgoing man who craved isolation.
Through a process of analysing 116 letters written over 5 years, an understanding of the various relationships emerged through considering the popularity of the topics discussed and degrees of intimacy in the tone of writing. Processes of categorising, quantifying and ranking were used to interpret the letters as qualitative data, and therefore build an understanding of how each relationship felt in comparison to each other. By understanding the modes of communication not only through what he wrote about, but how he wrote about it, a rich understanding of the semantic qualities of unique relationships emerge.