The Mall

benpettis.com/mall

Like many other kids in the third grade, I really enjoyed drawing things and using simple markers and crayons as an outlet for my active imagination. For some reason, I became obsessed with creating and drawing imaginary storefronts and the various items that each of them sold.

Over the course of about a year, my friends and I drew countless different storefronts – some based in reality, others entirely imagined. I visualized our creation as a giant mall of sorts, with each storefront physically connected to other stores that we had created. I envisioned a giant network of stores, and wanted to find some way to connect all of our drawings and represent their actual spatial relationships. Unfortunately, third-grade me lacked the technical know-how to actually make this happen, and my idea sat unfinished in a small folder tucked away in a my parents’ garage.

Fast forward 18 years to me visiting Colorado for Winter Break. I’m digging through boxes of my old stuff – at the request of my parents to finally “get this crap out of here” – and stumble across my old third grade project. Seeing as I had some time to fill, I started Googling some HTML5 and JavaScript network visualizations and cobbled something together.

I tried to connect each image to the correct neighbors, but it turns out that third-grade me was actually pretty awful at creating a sensible organization structure… Any nodes that are unconnected are stores that we forgot to connect to another one. Nodes without images are store names that I found references to, but no actual drawing.

Eat your heart out, younger-me

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