Data Stories: What Space Oddity Looks Like

In the land of popular music, there has been little scarcity of fashion experiments. And David Bowie’s visual legacy definitely takes up a large piece. But, what does a David Bowie song look like? Valentina D’Efilippo and Miriam Quick answer this question in their remarkable project.

Outfit by Kansai Yamamoto                                Photo by Masayoshi Sukita 1973
Aladdin Sane Cover

OddityViz – a data tribute to David Bowie is a visualization project that gives ‘form to what we hear, imagine and feel while listening to’ Bowie’s hit number Space Oddity. The project which is a combination of ten engraved records, large-scale prints and projections is deconstructed from data extracted from the song – narrative, texture, rhythm, melody, harmony, lyrics, structure, lyrics, trip and emotion. The inquiries that went into the making of each of these records are even more interesting.

When making this, the ninth disc in the Oddityviz series, we asked ourselves: how can we tell the story of Major Tom so it could be understood by an alien?

The project took inspiration from a variety of references from popular culture, while the colour palette naturally recalls the darkness of space (black) and the stars (white). One can also see a reference to the Voyager Golden Records in the engraved dataviz format.

The final disc of the series illustrates the central themes of the song: the destruction of its main character, the bittersweet nature of triumph, the smallness of humanity in a vast, extended universe.

In her article on Muzli, D’Efilippo breaks down the process of creating this piece, comparing the ‘system’ of data visualization to music – one that is largely subjective and that which becomes more ‘meaningful and legible’ as we learn how to read it.

In my opinion, dataviz is more than a tool to render numbers, it’s a way to make sense of any experience and communicate the underpinning stories.

Read the full article here.

Evolution of the Data Artist

Defining Data Art is tricky. And for good reason. The mediascape that breathes around us is a terrain that shifts, distorts and transforms before it can be drawn. In such a space, defining can only be limiting. Jacoba Urist, in his comprehensive article in The Atlantic in 2015 explored the multifarious ways of the Data Artist.

Art is as much a product of the technologies available to artists as it is of the sociopolitical time it was made in, and the current world is no exception. A growing community of “data artists” is creating conceptual works using information collected by mobile apps, GPS trackers, scientists, and more.

                                                      Liberté (1963) – Joaquim Rodrigo 

In a series called Moodjam, (Laurie) Frick took thousands of Italian laminate countertop samples from a recycling center and created a series of canvases and billboard-sized murals based on her temperament … Frick is adamant that her work is about more than simply visualizing information—that it serves as a metaphor for human experience, and thus belongs firmly in the art world.

As Urist deftly puts it – working with (this) data isn’t just a matter of reducing human beings to numbers, but also of achieving greater awareness of complex matters in a modern world. Fast forward to two years later, Cynthia Andrews speaks about the role of Context in Data Art.

If you look at neural networks created by scientists with a creative eye you might see it as art. If you take it out of context, it could be a subway map or a series of rivers. It could be anything. It’s the non-creative context in which things are placed that makes people think they aren’t be considered art.

Andrews expands on a specific genre of Data Art that Urist mentions –

Artists influenced by self-tracking.

‘Waiting for Earthquakes’ by Moon Ribas. She has a sensor embedded into her skin that, using seismic data, vibrates every time there is an earthquake in the world, from anywhere, any magnitude. ‘Waiting for Earthquakes’ is a performance piece in which she literally just stands on stage and waits for an earthquake to happen and then interprets the feeling that she gets into movement. I don’t know if she considers it data art, but I do.

And then, there are artists like Shelita Burke, a pop musician who decided to use Blockchain and Music Metadata to not only get paid on time – but to organize a centralized system for distributing royalties across the production spectrum to the producers and writers involved.

Burke thinks it also has something to do with her use of data to her advantage, like when she determined  that 90 days was the perfect time to release new music in order to keep fans engaged.

“I really believe that every artist needs to understand data” Burke says.

Internet Feudalism v/s Net Neutrality – Who wins?

A few weeks ago, the FCC under the chairmanship of Ajit Pai voted to repeal net neutrality, a topic that soared in Google’s search trends this past December. The interest in the subject when ranked by states (sub-regions) is also quite unexpected with Nebraska at the top, since then becoming the first red state to institute pro net neutrality legislation.

While much is being spoken on the subject including the recent legal resistance from several advocacy groups, the internet association and corporations like Amazon, Google and Netflix, the debate within the wider media continues to remain largely polarized, without taking into account the nuances and hidden realities of the current power structures in place within the world wide web.

Lana Polansky, in her article dives into ‘the emptiness of the myth of the internet as some great equalizer’ and what these feudalistic dynamics mean for independent artists, creators and small businesses even with the existing open internet.

large sections of the internet have been carved out and wholly controlled by major corporations and crowdsourcing and marketplace platforms. The virtual land is farmed for content, from which platform holders skim off profit in exchange for use of the platform.

It has always been difficult for people outside the more privileged classes to hack it as artists and intellectuals, but the break with tradition that the internet was originally believed to represent has now given way to a form of virtual feudalism.

Read the full article here.

Local Data Design: An Interview with Professor Yanni Loukissas

Dr. Anne Luther spoke with Professor Yanni Loukissas by phone to discuss his research focus on critical data studies and local readings of data collections. Yanni Loukissas is an assistant professor of digital media in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Tech, where he directs the Local Data Design Lab. He teaches courses in Digital Media, Computational Media, Human-Computer Interaction, and Science, Technology, and Society.

Continue reading “Local Data Design: An Interview with Professor Yanni Loukissas”

‘Data Matters’ Goes Public!

Today marks the official public launch of Data Matters, a weekly online publication from the Center for Data Arts where you will now find weekly original postings.

With information technology being rapidly woven into every layer of modern life, influencing what we eat, how we learn, how wars are waged, and how our societies are governed, data has never mattered more than it does today. To shed light on data’s many crucial and disparate roles, Data Matters will embrace perspectives from journalism, science, humanities, and the arts, and we will publish pieces in multiple forms that include articles, essays, research papers, and experimental digital media.

Our goal is to make Data Matters a wide open platform for examining the fast changing data landscape from every angle, providing our audience with information and critical insight on this complex and fast-changing subject.

 

 

Maya Wiley on the Necessity of Data for All

“Today, high-speed internet access is a necessity and not a luxury,” said Maya Wiley last week at South by Southwest.

Millions of Americans lack broadband access and computer skills. 

In other news on the digital divide, A plan in New York state might offer a way toward connecting millions of Americans to a service that’s become nearly as important as electricity. Continue reading “Maya Wiley on the Necessity of Data for All”

The Trouble With Election Maps

The election map in the New York Times was the subject of plenty of conversations in the data visualization and cartography world yesterday. As much as we here at CDA love a good conversation about visual representation (and apparently, we like to do it in rhyme), this map did raise a lot of questions and concerns. In a post for CityLab, Andrew Small writes: “America needs a voting map that actually looks like America.”

Small continues:

But as people tee up to argue and theorize about what the electoral map means for the country, I’m reminded of a recent point of wisdom my colleague Laura Bliss made recently—maps aren’t facts, they’re starting points.

Read Small’s full post for his thoughts on where we can start.

A History of Data Journalism

We have been using data to explain our world for a long time. Data journalism is no exception. We have, as marketing strategist Andrea Lehr explains, been looking at data to help us tell stories for maybe even longer then we’ve thought. In this interview with Kristen Hare at Poynter, Lehr shares some of the findings from her recent report on the history of data journalism.

When staffers at the marketing agency Fractl decided to look into data journalism, they went way back. Way back. As they note, a kind of data journalism was used in the Han dynasty.

“I was most surprised to learn just how long the concept has been around,” said Andrea Lehr, a strategist at Fractl.

In 1849, for instance, The New York Tribune used a chart to show how many lives were being lost to cholera.

Fractl has seen an increase in data journalism among the publishers it works with, so staffers compiled a report on the storytelling method. The agency also spoke with several data journalists as part of the project, including FiveThirtyEight’s Allison McCann and Nathaniel Lash of the Poynter-owned Tampa Bay Times.

Lehr spoke with Poynter about the report via email.

Read the rest of the interview with Lehr at Poynter