Data as an Art Material. Case study: The Open Data Institute


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The Open Data Institute (ODI) sees the creative use of data as an intrinsic and essential part of our cultural landscape. As part of it’s ongoing operations, the it has an Art Programme committed to facilitating artists in the exhibition and creation of works which translate data into something that is meaningful to people’s lives.

Artists use data as an art material in many ways: materialising them physically, sonifying them to amplify natural phenomena, coalescing them to create new realities. They question how objective the treatment of data is, and how much truth do we expect from an artwork with statistical roots? And we are asked to consider whether it matters. If we accept that there is dogma in the artists code, do we accept that it plays a part in other code too?

Often at the critical edge of technological debate, artists are redefining how we perceive data and how it affects and reflects our lives. This presentation will showcase art curated for the on-going Data as Culture programme, from concept through the development process to the final work, and present findings on how the art programme has impacted the ODI, its visitors and its staff. By Julie Freeman

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  • About me.
    Artist - working with data.
    When ODI started early talks with Gavin, one of his first decisions was to support the programme. ODI has just turned one.
  • over 3000 visitors to our London space
    25 countries interested in setting up “their ODI”
    50 corporate paying members
    6 courses launched (130+ trained from 11 countries)
    10 start-ups incubated
    launch of Open Data Certificate -
    Support for existing ecosystem (MySociety, OKF, OGP)
  • Artists have always reflected society and the environment we live in in their work, -
    the wealth of information data holds, the ability to globally self-reflect is enormous and very attractive
  • Call responded in only 1 screen based work (Semiconductor) out of 9 (3 new commissions, 6 existing works)
    Works were manifestations of data rather than data visualisations
  • Next steps - Open call for Curators announced in Sept 2013, new exhibition in Feb 2014, with extensions to Manchester (Future Everything) and Brighton (Lighthouse).
    Hoping to expand Internationally
    More focus on ALL cultural data as described earlier.
  • Data as an Art Material. Case study: The Open Data Institute

    1. 1. Julie Freeman @misslake ODI Art Associate Senior TED Fellow School of Electronic Engineering & Computer Science, Queen Mary University of London 1
    2. 2. Who? — Leadership Team Gavin Starks CEO 18+ years startup experience 20+ years science, web, media, and data Sir Tim Berners-Lee Jeni Tennison CTO World-leader in open data and linked data W3C, and architect Stuart Coleman VP Market Development 15+ years in commercial tech space Formerly HP, CA, and AMEE Sir Nigel Shadbolt 2
    3. 3. A privately owned not-for-profit, a convening point for: Public Private Academia 3
    4. 4. Mission statement Catalyse the evolution of open data culture to create economic, environmental, and social value 4
    5. 5. How? — Communication Training Research Development Start-up incubator Art programme 5 5
    6. 6. Cultural data Data as an art material – used by artists & creative practitioners Data that IS cultural media – moving image, photos, audio, BBC archives, Europeana, etc Data about the cultural sector – museums, galleries, audiences 6
    7. 7. Data as an art material - agenda-free experimentation - innovation - constant failure and iteration - expose what data and data science means and it’s impact on society - as more data is opened up, the information it holds must be reflected back to us from many angles Artists explore and expose processes ...and understanding process leads to progress 7
    8. 8. Launch of Data as Culture - Open call for artists: 89 respondents from 20 countries in 2 weeks - Global coverage (WSJ, main TED conference in LA) - 3,000+ visitors to the ODI London space - Significant response from cultural leaders “You’ve set the agenda for data as culture—so what’s next?” Honor Harger, Creative Director, Lighthouse Digital Agency 8
    9. 9. Three flames ate the sun, and big stars were seen – Phil Archer ©
    10. 10. Metrography – Bertrand Clerk & Benedikt Groß ©
    11. 11. Body 01000010011011110110010001111001 – Stanza ©
    12. 12. The SKOR Codex – La Société Anonyme ©
    13. 13. 20hz – Semiconductor ©
    14. 14. The Obelisk – Fabio Lattanzi Antinori ©
    15. 15. Text Trends – Martin John Callanan ©
    16. 16. Still Lifes and Oscillators 1 – Ben Garrod
    17. 17. Vending Machine – Ellie Harrison ©
    18. 18. Julie Freeman @misslake 18