Giorgia Lupi is one of the creative minds that are considering data as a source of archiviation of mediated memories and therefore, information. She is vocal about the need for a Data Humanism: the exact opposite approach of Big Data. She is - and so I am - trying to dialogue with the system: at the same, what can be identified as an ideology is necessarily coming through.
To follow her own words,
Big Data doesn’t belong to a distant dystopian future; it’s a commodity and an intrinsic and iconic feature of our present (…) and our minds and bodies are naturally adapting to this new hybrid reality built of both physical and informational structures; visual design — with its power to instantly reach out to places in our subconscious without the mediation of language, and with its inherent ability to convey large amounts of structured and unstructured information across cultures — is going to be even more central to this silent but inevitable revolution.
Her latest project ’The Room of Change’, at the XXII Triennale di Milano, has been created a 30-meters-long hand-crafted data-tapestry illustrating how multiple aspects of our environment have changed in the past centuries, how they are still changing, and how they will likely continue changing - a deliberately humanistic approach towards archivable information.
She is, mainly, talking about a visual representation of data which can be more insightful than a cold infographic, but why is the traditional approach more popular? She clarifies that “What made cheap marketing infographics so popular is probably their biggest contradiction: the false claim that a couple of pictograms and a few big numbers have the innate power to simplify complexity. (…) we need to begin designing ways to connect numbers to what they really stand for: knowledge, behaviours, people.”
Complexity needs facilitation. Another reason is economic: pieces of information that are not insightful are useless. As said before, it’s the same situation of the one of a biologist that has to understand animal migrations through the path of one single arrow.
Ekene Ijeoma, founder and director of the Poetic Justice at MIT Media Lab, creates multisensory representations and interventions of data studies, turning them in what he describes as digestible art. Deconstructed Anthems is a series of ongoing music performances and sound-reactive light installations in which a self-playing piano and music ensemble deconstruct the Star-Spangled Banner, repeating it multiple times, removing notes at the rate of mass incarceration, and ending in silence.
Whether to call something art or design is a never-ending debate that requires setting boundaries in what is now a collapsed context. I’m personally not tackling collective patterns, but a lack of human content in data - which can be in some ways considered a social issue - and its accessibility. The material I’ve been working on is merely useless and individual: it’s non-recyclable trash. I’ve been looking at the expression, rather than the visualisation of data.
It’s not just about accessibility, it’s about the dignification of our online presence. In the same way non-heteronormative couples spent a lifetime together but left no legal traces because not included in the legislative system, here we are now spending a big part of our time having to hysterically leave footprints on sand in order to be remembered. We’re passively selling data for free receiving back a uniformed answer which would be the same as taking impressions of our teeth to get braces but receiving a standard retainer from the dentist.
Adorno once stated that technology is making gestures precise and brutal, and with them men: in a way, how silently comfortable we are in getting nothing back is meaningful on how standardised the consideration of ourselves from ourselves is.
If technology and the internet made possible the democratization of skills, a democratization of creativity - the only way to store emotions - is a frightening path that can lead us to get in touch with our virtual self.