Listening to a Glacier on a Warm Summer Day

Photo: Brett Gilmour, © 2018

In June, CDA Director Ben Rubin and Data Artist Jer Thorpe completed Herald/Harbinger, a work of light, movement, and sound that unfurls from the south lobby of Calgary’s Brookfield Place, extending outdoors into the open tree-lined plaza.

The plaza at Brookfield Place, Calgary. Photo: James Brrittain, © 2017

Heralding the ascent of Earth’s Anthropocene period, Herald / Harbinger speaks to the interrelationship between human activity in Calgary and the natural system of the Bow Glacier in the Canadian Rockies.

The artwork’s story begins about 160 miles west of Calgary, where the Bow Glacier melts, cracks and shifts with changing temperatures, existing in a perpetual state of physical transformation. In 2016 and 2017, the artists constructed a solar-powered seismic observatory at the edge of the glacier. There, they installed sensors that register the near constant shifting of the restless ice and feed this data in real-time to the artwork’s servers.

“Up on the mountain, when the wind wasn’t blowing, there was an eerie, complete silence. Watching the data scroll by on the screen, though, I could see that the ice was not as it appeared; that its stillness belied a quick and constant movement.” – Jer Thorp

The glacier’s movements are made visible as displacements of scan lines on an array of LED lights. Photo: Brett Gilmour, © 2018

The artwork itself is a permanent public installation that renders the glacier’s movements audible in an immersive outdoor soundscape of ice and water sound, and visible as displacements of scan lines on an array of LED lights. Inlaid patterns on the granite plaza surface map the forces pushing the Bow Glacier down from the Wapta Icefield toward the Bow lake.

“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

The pattern embedded in the granite plaza surface maps the forces pushing the Bow Glacier from the Wapta Ice Field down toward Bow Lake. Photo: Brett Gilmour, © 2018

As Calgary’s day gets busier and traffic levels rise, the patterns in the artwork are interrupted by the patterns of the urban life, with aggregated data from pedestrians’ footsteps and traffic sampled at 14 different locations around the city sometimes intruding upon the glacial tempo. Vehicle traffic is displayed as seven ‘roadways’ on the piece’s seven LED fixtures. Herald/Harbinger creates an encounter between Alberta’s natural systems and the city’s restive human activity, establishing a kind of conversation between these two realms.

And yet for all of its complexity, the artwork’s presence remains subtle, blending discretely into its urban surroundings even as it invites curious passersby to pause, listen, and investigate.

‘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.

 

 

Work With Us!

The Center for Data Arts needs a New School student with a great sense of  typography and aesthetics to work with us on a UX/UI project. Both graduate and undergraduate considered. Please send cover letter and examples of your work to Katie Wanner (wannk858 at newschool.edu)

Cover Story

MIT PressWe’re pleased to announce that CDA Director Ben Rubin’s piece “Listening Post” is gracing the cover of the upcoming release Information (MIT Press) edited by Sara Cook. Continue reading “Cover Story”

High Tech Meets High Fashion

l1Ni1rE5At our visit from IBM Watson specialist Armen Pischdotchian last month, we learned about all the ways that cognitive computing was changing our world. And while Armen was pretty thorough in his workshop, we were still surprised to see Watson on the red carpet. But there it was, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual gala, in the form of a “cognitive dress” designed in partnership with Marchesa. The designers used  the technology to create a dress embedded with color-shifting LEDs that responded to followers emotions.

From Quartz:

Prior to the gala, Watson analyzed Marchesa’s social media to translate followers’ sentiments into colors. It turned emotions into information, and created a color palette for the LEDs from that analysis. In real-time during the gala, Watson processed the huge volume of tweets surrounding the event, and changed the color of the dress according to the emotions in them. Rose signified joy, coral meant passion, aqua was excitement, lavender denoted curiosity, and butter indicated encouragement.

The project, which IBM describes as “a partnership between man and machine” required Marchesa designers to feed hundreds of images to Watson; the technology responded with suggestions for design and color. In the past, Watson’s forays into fashion have mostly been on the back-end, helping brands like North Face and Melborne Fashion Week better serve the needs of their customers, so this shift to the design side of things marks an interesting shift.

We are constantly quantifying our days-our steps, our sleep patterns. To that end, this dress feels like a natural extension of that; another way to make sense of the flow of information that washes over us. Data has always been at its best when it’s telling a story, when it’s something more than charts and numbers, so the blend of data visualization, fashion, and emotion seems natural in a way. It’s another story to tell. I suppose that we can’t know right now just what story partnerships like this will be telling in the future.

Issey Miyake (Japanese, born 1938) for Miyake Design Studio (Japanese, founded 1970) "Flying Saucer" dress, spring/summer 1994 Courtesy of The Miyake Issey Foundation Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope
Issey Miyake (Japanese, born 1938) for Miyake Design Studio (Japanese, founded 1970)
“Flying Saucer” dress, spring/summer 1994
Courtesy of The Miyake Issey Foundation
Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02:  Karolina Kurkova attends the "Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology" Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – MAY 02: Karolina Kurkova attends the “Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology” Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

MS Data Visualization Lecture, featuring Lev Manovich

Teacher, author, and media critic Lev Manovich comes to The New School on Wednesday, March 30 as part of the Data Visualization Masters program’s lecture series. Dr. Manovich will be discussing his Software Studies Initiative and the projects launched from it. He will also present his most recent project, an analysis of images shared on Twitter between 2011 and 2014.

More information can be found on The New School’s event page.

MoMA releases its collection data

moma

Fiona Romeo‘s Medium post says it all:

We just flipped our own default and shared data for more than 125,000 works from MoMA’s collection on GitHub using Creative Commons Zero (CC0). This data release includes all of the works that have been both accessioned into MoMA’s collection and cataloged in our database. It includes basic data for each work, including title, artist, date made, medium, dimensions, and date acquired by the Museum. The data will be updated periodically with new acquisitions and research.