Author: Laurence Borel

Iconic designs: Le Chat Noir

I’ve just come back from a day trip to Paris, and being a sucker for art and advertising, just thought I would share the image of an iconic poster, which has stood the test of time.
Le Chat Noir

Le Chat Noir is thought to be the first cabaret ever opened in Paris in the 19th century, perhaps best known remembered now by its iconic Art Nouveau poster created by  Théophile Steinlen, and arguably his most well-known work which can be found in various souvenir shops in Paris.

So why am I posting this? I went to Paris on a day trip with a friend yesterday, and was saddened to see how empty the streets of Paris were around the Louvre, even though the area of Notre Dame was much busier. I got chatting to a shopkeeper who told me that his turnover had dropped by 60% since the November terrorists attacks. Don’t stop going to Paris; it’s a gorgeous city worth visiting over and over again.

Big Bang Data at Somerset House #BigBangData

Whether we like it or not, we create data about ourselves that leave indelible traces about who we are online. In fact, as I type, I am ironically creating data about an exhibition about data through my Instagrams and blog post, which combined with your likes, retweets and comments, will have generated even more data. If you have a smartphone, almost everything you do today will generate some kind of data. Your iPhone now tracks your steps, your diet, and even your sex life should you wish to. As marketers, we track your shopping habits and remarket to you via Facebook ads (amongst other types of ads). And with the Internet of Things, the data we generate is simply going to keep growing.

Enters Big Bang Data, Somerset House’s latest exhibition, which explores the ways in which data is stored, used and generated through large-scale infographics, short films, personal art projects and a series of talks.

The scary thing though is that 90% of the data that exists in the world today was created in the past two years alone. We apparently generated around 2.5 quintillion bytes a day… a quintillion is a thing apparently. Perhaps the evolution of data storage through the decades will bring things into perspective too…

Data storage
Evolution of data storage solutions: 1950- 2010


Among the interactive exhibits,  Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico’s controversial Face to Facebook project shows our lack of control over the data we upload. Cirio and Ludovico  lifted profile information from a million Facebook accounts and uploaded it to the now defunct spoof dating website,, resulting in global media coverage and outrage among those whose faces were used. For the cats lovers out there,  I Know Where Your Cat Lives offers a fun take on a similar theme, plotting the location of a million cats on the world based on public social media posts.

A more useful use of data looks at data journalism and crowdsourced information. There’s a fantastic project from the Guardian, which demonstrates how its journalists used data from 19.6 million house sales in the UK over the past 20 years to create an easy-to-use interactive highlighting the affordability of areas based on users’ salary. And the results are quite scary really.

Another highlight for me was  London data streams by Tekja. Can the data we produce tell us what London is thinking and doing? Tekja’s London data streams visualise and explore the pulse, frequency and richness of London’s live data. The piece follows three real-time information streams: Twitter, Instagram and Transport for London updates presented an interactive map. West Londoners were upset at 18.43pm when I took the photo, whilst North Londoners were dreaming…

London data streams by Tekja.
London data streams by Tekja (2015)
London data streams by Tekja.
London data streams by Tekja (2015)

Finally, I found the Selfiecity project, specifically commissioned for the exhibition fascinating. 150,000 Instagram images were collected from 21-27 September 2015. Only images for which users selected a location were collected. A manual analysis was conducted on a sample of 2,000 images (apparently 26% of London images have faces in them). They also discovered that there are almost four times more portraits than selfies. Among the selfies, the proportion showing one person vs. 2 or people is the same (2.8%). The research analysed selfies taken in New York, Sao Paulo, London, Berlin, Bangkok and Moscow… and London has the highest proportion of… least happy faces (damn you Londoners!).

Selfiecity methodology
Selfiecity methodology


I have been fascinated by consumer-generated data for a while (see here and here) . The show has inspired me as a researcher, to focus my research on Big Data in the future. To create data visualisations, chek out D3 (NB: you must know how to use Python to use these templates).

Thoughts of a second year PhD researcher

PhD researcher
Behind the scenes: Piled Higher and Deeper

PhD researcher, PhD student, PhD candidate? I never quite know, which label is most appropriate. As I type these words, I have just begun the second year of the gruelling, yet exciting journey that a PhD is. So what did I learn since my

So what did I learn since my last update back in June?

Resilience: I am currently on my third rewrite of my PhD prospectus, a 12K document which includes my literature review and methodology. It can be tiresome, sometimes but overall, it’s hugely rewarding and you feel a little bit smarter at the end of each day.

Self-motivation and productivity: I am one of the unfunded PhD students who has to earn a living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. This means that I can only contract for certain amounts of time during the year in order to take time off to focus on my research. I treat my PhD like a 9-5(ish) job, but I look forward at lending my services to exciting brands when I go back to the practitioner-side.

I actually know very little:  I thought I knew quite a bit about marketing, when I started the process. And I was so wrong… Every marketer should take a deep dive into some of the academic thinking around their disciplines. It can only be a good thing.

Managing stress: I do suffer from anxiety, and PhDs can be stressful at times. Over the past 12 months, I’ve learnt to pick myself up and not give in to the stress.

Be organised: see those folders on the above photos? Read, write, annotate, highlight, synthetize. Post-it notes are your best friend.

Last but certainly not least.. the rumours are true, PhDs will do this to your love life… but I will not get into too much detail about this 😉

What did you learn during the first year of your PhD?


Image via 

Book review: Charlie Pownall’s Managing Online Reputation

Managing online reputation: How to Protect your company on social mediaPalgrave Macmillan recently sent me a copy of Charlie Pownall’sManaging Online Reputation: How to protect your company on social media, which arrived in the nick of time as I will be lecturing Big Data and Crisis Management at ESCEM Business School in Poitiers this coming March. It’s hard to come by good theoretical books on crisis management, and this handy solutions-led guide does not disappoint.

Charlie Pownall has over 20 years experience helping companies, governments and individuals manage and defend their online reputation. Pownall candidly shares his expertise on the various types of crises brands may experience at one stage or another online. The book helps managers understand the various types of threats facing organisations, how to manage these incidents (customer incidents, rogues employees, activists, hostile journalists and backfiring campaigns), and last but not least how to prepare, respond and recover from a crisis.

Verdict: Packed with a variety of case studies, this book is a must read for all social media managers and PR managers alike who need to brush up their crisis management skills. I’ll certainly be recommending this book to my students. Grab your copy here.

This book is part of the Palgrave Pocket Consultants series concise, authoritative guides that provide actionable solutions to specific, high-level business problems.

Rewind RS Components 2015: YouTube trailer

I’m excited to share the YouTube trailer created for the RS Components YouTube channel, which features some of the video content, Vine and events wrap up videos created at RS Components for the past 12 months. 1 minute and 12 seconds of sheer hard work and pure awesomeness!