EXIT: Visualizing Global Human Migrations

Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris recently published EXIT , a book that documents intentions and processes behind the immersive installation of the same name, through previously unpublished photographs, essays, interview, context pieces, and richly rendered maps and visualizations.

Global populations are unstable and on the move. Unprecedented numbers of migrants are leaving their home countries for economic, political, and environmental reasons. “Exit” was created to quantify and display this increasing global trend. — excerpt from description, DS+R

EXIT is an immersive installation visualizing human migrations, as well as deforestation and the loss of languages around the world. — Fondation Cartier

Commissioned by Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain for the 2008 exhibit Native Land, Stop Eject, the project was co-created by philosopher and urbanist Paul Virilio, architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, architect-artist Laura Kurgan, statistician-artist Mark Hansen and artist-designer Ben Rubin in partnership with scientists Bruce Albert, François Gemenne, and François-Michel Le Tourneau.



What Data can tell us about being LGBTQ in the US

Earlier this month, The Trevor Project, a non-profit focused on providing support and suicide prevention care to LGBTQ youth released the largest nationwide survey ever conducted on LGBTQ mental health with over 34000 respondents. The data, which is refreshingly inclusive of both the diversity and the intersectionality of gender-variant experiences of young people, also reveals how much work still needs to be done in this area and prompts us towards future milestones that need to be set.

“This ground-breaking survey provides new insights into the challenges that LGBTQ youth across the country face every day, including suicide, feeling sad or hopeless, discrimination, physical threats and exposure to conversion therapy.”

Some key findings illustrated in the 12 page report were:

71% of LGBTQ youth in our study reported discrimination due to either their sexual orientation or gender identity

58% of transgender and non-binary youth reported being discouraged from using a bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity

76% of LGBTQ youth felt that the recent political climate impacted their mental health or sense of self

Data Images from The Trevor Project. (2019). National Survey on LGBTQ Mental Health. New York, New York: The Trevor Project. Header Image:  Photo by Nadine Shaabana

The Blurred Lines of Data Sovereignty

Data are often thought of as digital. They are also discrete, spatial, lateral and seemingly non-subjective. Data demands tags, classes, branches and categories in order to be meaningful. Data needs to exist in parts to be whole. The biases that inherently accompany the creation of Data often dwindle into the ether around captivating visualizations that take the center stage. Biases such as choices of tags, design agendas, and economic entities that commissioned the datasets.

Data needs to exist in parts to be whole.

To be visualized coherently, Data needs ‘cleaning up’ and clean datasets project outwards. They raise questions about everything but themselves. Clean datasets afford us the convenience of neat, untarnished algorithms. When these datasets are made open, in the hands of the public domain the resulting algorithmic universe amplifies. We applaud and embrace the ideals of Open Data as reflection and reassurance of a digital democracy.

But, what happens when Data wants (and needs) to be protected? What happens when communities that have collected, created, owned, applied and disseminated knowledge for generations employ methods of preservation that Data-as-we-know-it resists? What happens when it is crucial for certain types of Data to be both sheltered as well as communicated? What happens when Data refuses qualitative distillation and the quantitative bulk is intricately tethered to the undiscountable lived experience?

Indigenous Data Sovereignty is one such domain, specifically the data concerning sexual violence against Indigenous women.

Crosscut interviewed Abigail Eco-Hawk, the Chief Research Officer of the Seattle Indian Health Board about Data Collection and Knowledge Creation that are separate from and not rooted in Western methods of understanding Data.

The following are excerpts from the article.

“When we think about data, and how it’s been gathered, is that, from marginalized communities, it was never gathered to help or serve us. It was primarily done to show the deficits in our communities, to show where there are gaps. And it’s always done from a deficit-based framework.

“As indigenous peoples, we have always been gatherers of data, of information. We’ve always been creators of original technology.

“When I went to the University of Washington, I was able to take some of the Western knowledge systems and understand how that related to the indigenous. I recognized that the systems that were currently working towards evaluation, data collection, technology, science, and the way that we looked at the health of Native people weren’t serving my people, because they didn’t have the indigenous framework.

“Decolonizing data means that the community itself is the one determining what is the information they want us to gather. Why are we gathering it? Who’s interpreting it? And are we interpreting it in a way that truly serves our communities?

“[The Seattle Indian Health Board] had decided to not publish this information because of how drastic the data was showing the rates of sexual violence against Native women. There were fears that it could stigmatize Native women, and that would cause more harm than good. But those women had shared their story, and we had a responsibility to them, and to the story, and I take that very seriously.

One of the ways that there is a continuing genocide against American Indians/Alaska Natives is through data. When we are invisible in the data, we no longer exist. When I see an asterisk that says “not statistically significant,” or they lump us together with Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans — you can’t lump racial groups together. That is bad data practice.

“I always think about the data as story, and each person who contributed to that data as storytellers. What is our responsibility to the story and our responsibility to the storyteller? Those are all indigenous concepts, that we always care for our storytellers, and we always have a responsibility to our stories.

Read the full article here.

May You Live in Interesting Dataverses

Japanese sound and visual artist Ryoji Ikeda’s ‘data-verse’ is one of 79 artists’ works featured from around the world at the 2019 Venice Biennale Arte. The 58th volume of the international exhibition curated by Ralph Rugoff opened on May 11th and is titled ‘May You Live in Interesting Times’ inviting artists, connoisseurs and visitors to “see and consider the course of human events in their complexity, an invitation, thus, that appears to be particularly important in times when, too often, oversimplification seems to prevail, generated by conformism or fear.”

Ikeda’s work often renders the majestic and the exalted through mathematical explorations using sound and light. Supported by Audemars Piguet, ‘data-verse’ is an audiovisual installation that interprets the omnipresent nature of data in our modern lives. The three-part research piece variegating from the microscopic to the human to the macroscopic employs massive open source scientific data sets from CERN, NASA and the human genome project to orchestrate through high-definition video projections and minimalist electronic soundtrack – ‘the hidden facets of nature and the vast scientific knowledge underpinning our existence’.

“When I set out making this work, my approach was always, first and foremost, that of a composer. Rather than creating a traditional musical composition, I used data as my source material, applying a system and structure as you would with any score.” – Ryoji Ikeda

The exhibit is open to the public at the Venice Biennale arsenale through November 24th, 2019

Feature Image above: data.tron vy Ikeda on show in transmediale 10, Berlin, Germany

Making Art from Personal Data : Lozano-Hemmer’s Pulse Series

Image: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Pulse Room 2006 in Rafael Lozano-Hemmer : Pseudomatismos MUAC Museum, Mexico City, Mexico 2015. Photo: Oliver Santana

Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC exhibited Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s immersive public-art installations, this past winter. Fast Company interviewed the Mexican Canadian artist about the place and positioning of technology in creating art, on the nuanced identities in Latin American art and the use of personal bodily data of the audience in a public art context.

The museum is not a neutral space. We are often asked to go to a museum to be inspired by what is on display and see what is deemed important by the intelligentsia. The experience is quite different. The beautiful thing about public space is that it’s out of control. It’s a place where you don’t get as many levels of intermediation.

People could stumble upon the artwork as they go home from work. Their participation is far more surprising. It’s more political because the diversity you can get in public space is of course greater if people choose to go to a museum–especially if it’s a paying one. In a museum, you think about what you’re doing and what has happened in the past.

Humanizing Data for Just Cities

Design and the Just City in NYC exhibit that opened in early January this year to the public nudges the audience to think of the city through the lens of justice. Featuring research from Harvard GSD’s Just City Lab led by Toni Griffin, it examines a values-driven approach to urban planning and design to address conditions of injustice in the city.

Imagine that the issues of race, income, education, and unemployment inequality, and the resulting segregation, isolation, and fear, could be addressed by planning and urban design. Would we design better places if we put the values of equality, equity, and inclusion first? If communities articulated what they stood for, what they believed in, and what they aspired to be, would they have a better chance of creating healthy and vibrant places?

The project invariably draws one’s attention to the nature of data that informs urban planning processes, moving away from traditional statistical models towards humane, intentional, complex and nuanced forms of city data.

Situated in a cozy, reflective nook at the Center for Architecture, the exhibit engages the visitors in rethinking their neighborhoods and places in terms of the values they represent.

A large walled map of New York City is a canvas for New Yorkers to collectively aggregate these values and add their dimensions to the city.


Data Matters Newsletter  —  Dec 2018

Data is never self-contained; it comes into existence only when someone expends resources to gather and record it, and its meaning is inextricable from its context. 

Look Back:

Listening to a Glacier on a Warm Summer Day


“Climate Change is an abstraction. We read about it, but it’s happening too slowly for us to perceive, and so it’s hard to accept it as something that’s real and urgent. This artwork is an attempt to give a ‘voice’ to a specific glacier in the hopes of making climate change something we can hear and see — something that feels real.” — Ben Rubin

We Recommend:

1. Illustrating Mental Illness

It’s hard to visualise mental illness in the same way we might visualise physical disabilities, and this can make it difficult for people with no experience of mental health problems to empathise or imagine how they affect peoples’ lives.

2. Water, data, art!

“Waterways get polluted. But they can also be cleaned up. It’s a process that’s reversible… Data forces you to work with constraints, at the same time as it gives unexpected results and surprises,” Kildall says.

3. Aeromidd | Earth Square Moon

A neat little fact about the solar system demonstrated in animation. Did you know that the radius of the Earth in ratio to the radius of the Moon is 3:11? This remarkably means that If you create a square of a side length equivalent to Earth’s diameter, it will have the same perimeter length as a circle of diameter equivalent to the Earth and Moons’ diameters together.

4. An Artist Sees Data So Powerful It Can Help Us Pick Better Friends

Frick imagines a future in which your smart watch will know how your body is responding to someone. Then it will combine with Facebook data about their personality. And that will let you know whether that person makes you lethargic, raises your blood pressure or depresses you.

5. Visualize your music DNA with Data 

Let’s retrieve your listening history of the last 100 days. Nothing that the recent GDPR wouldn’t allow though! Just the precise date, genre of the songs listened to and how many times you’ve listened to the same song/artist.

Upcoming Events in New York City:

1. Making Art in the Age of Algorithms Symposium– Friday, December 7, 2018 | Register

2. Culture Shifts in Social Data – How Brands Learn and React to Global Shifts in Thinking – Tuesday, December 11, 2018 | Register

3. NYC #OpenData 102 — Unlocking Open Data through data journeys – Thursday, January 17, 2018 | Register

Throwback Podcast:

Urban Legends with Karl Mamer

Back in 2014, Karl Mamer decoded the data mysteries behind three well known urban legends on Data Skeptic.


Instagram @MappingLab.Me

Journey of a Meme: Culture Jamming & Elections

Meme is the basic unit of culture jamming – an idea that utilizes the conventions of mainstream media to disrupt, subvert and plays upon the emotions of political bystanders so as to evoke change and activism.

On Oct 11 2018, the hashtag #JobsNotMobs came into being anchored by a ‘supercut’ viral video of cable news’ use of the word ‘mob’ juxtaposed with footage of various protests that happened last year. This meme slowly made its way through the crevices of social media across 4chan, reddit, facebook and twitter into President Trump’s twitter feed. 

Keith Collins and Kevin Roose in their NY times article, 

visualize the birth and spread of #JobsNotMobs and how it rapidly became part of the Republican campaign narrative in the midterm elections. 

The creator of the meme, who goes by the pen name “Bryan Machiavelli,” told The New York Times he charges $200 an hour for his “memetic warfare consulting” services.

Check out the visualization here.

When Place favors Power: A Spatial Recount of the Ford-Kavanaugh Hearing

TRIGGER WARNING: This article or section, or pages it links to, contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.

Image result for blasey ford

Continue reading “When Place favors Power: A Spatial Recount of the Ford-Kavanaugh Hearing”

Mapping Technology’s Reach: Anatomy of an AI System

‘Alexa, turn on the hall lights’

The cylinder springs into life. ‘OK.’ The room lights up….

This is an interaction with Amazon’s Echo device. 3 A brief command and a response is the most common form of engagement with this consumer voice-enabled AI device. But in this fleeting moment of interaction, a vast matrix of capacities is invoked: interlaced chains of resource extraction, human labor and algorithmic processing across networks of mining, logistics, distribution, prediction and optimization. The scale of this system is almost beyond human imagining. How can we begin to see it, to grasp its immensity and complexity as a connected form?

The graphic and passage above are excerpts from Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler, “Anatomy of an AI System: The Amazon Echo As An Anatomical Map of Human Labor, Data and Planetary Resources,” The AI Now Institute and SHARE Lab, (September 7, 2018)

In their stunning new work, which comprises both an essay and a vast infographic, Crawford and Joler strip away the smooth exterior of Amazon’s Echo to reveal the global network of human labor, data, and planetary resources that make this technology possible.

…invisible, hidden labor, outsourced or crowdsourced, hidden behind interfaces and camouflaged within algorithmic processes is now commonplace, particularly in the process of tagging and labeling thousands of hours of digital archives for the sake of feeding the neural networks.

Read the essay and see the infographic here.