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Design Column #6 Dataism explores the role of the individual in this ‘big data’ scenario. It is up to us not to lose ourselves in an illusion of omniscience and remain aware of the consequences of this system of networked information.
Sharing information has never been as easy as it is in today’s networked society. Email and brief online messages play important roles in everyday information transfer. Information is no longer transferred directly from one person to another, but is part of an expanding network of ‘big data’.
While this ‘dataism’ brings with it a great degree of freedom it also has huge implications. Telephones are tapped, our medical records are stored centrally in an electronic file, cookies track our internet history and we can be found wherever we are through the global positioning system (GPS) in our mobile phones. Details from this huge quantity of information, also known as ‘big data’, acquire significance when they are combined into a relevant story by someone or something. But how are these stories put together and does that interpretation reflect the reality?
Every three months the Design Column focuses on a news item in the form of a small exhibition. The column is a place where new ideas are made visible, where the power of imagination is given expression. Designers and artists are especially interested in experimental imagination. With their idiosyncratic vision, they see things differently and are capable of bringing about change. The Design Column creates a space for these innovative concepts.
The Design Column is not only a presentation but is also an opportunity for reaction and dialogue. You are cordially invited to participate in a roundtable conversation that will take place in November. If you would like to participate in this conversation, please contact the curators of the Design Column at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on location, guests and date, keep an eye on the website.
Accompanying each Design Column the museum keeps up a blog. Here you can find reactions and up to date information on the current and previous editions: www.designcolumn.nl.
On view in Design Column #6 Dataism
Mike Thompson, Susana Cámara Leret and Dave Young make communication processes in our bodies that are invisible to the naked eye tangible. Working with scientists from the Netherlands Metabolomics Centre (NMC), they measure the emission of photons in our hands by means of highly light-sensitive equipment and set them to music for “The Rhythm of Life” research project.
Adam Harvey investigates how data checks can be circumvented - with make-up that alters your appearance to such an extent that visual facial recognition no longer works, with ‘DNA Spoofing’, where you encrypt your genetic material, or with anti-drone clothes that make infra-red detection by drones (unmanned aircrafts) impossible. Harvey uses simple interventions in an attempt to get a grip on our privacy. Credtis: Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Aurelia Moser and Allison Burtch.
Nolte is interested in the evolution of the human body and the role of technology in it. Our bodies themselves change, and we also make more and more use of devices around us in order to function better. We seek progress by means of external memories.
Logically, the next step is to make all these external memories part of our body again. Ahead of us lies a future with chips under our skin, control panels on our arms, music piped to our ears through our bones, or perhaps Marcia Nolte’s QR scannable birthmark.
“The Clock Clock” consists of 24 clocks that collectively tell the time. When a new minute is approaching all the clocks run individually. There is a chaotic entity in which all clocks seem to follow their own schedule, but suddenly a meaning emerges. Different clocks together form a number, an indication of time, a contour. “The Clock Clock” can be interpreted as a representation of ‘big data’, a vast mountain of information that only becomes significant when connections are made in it and meaning is distilled from it.
The new website publeaks.nl is a place where information can be leaked to the press anonymously and securely. Julian Oliver likewise wants to make the leaking of information easier with “The Transparency Grenade”. During a private meeting the grenade lies on the table and the tiny equipment it contains records all audio and network activities. When someone pulls the pin out of the grenade everything goes to a server. This is then placed on a public online map with a pin marking the spot where the ‘explosion’ took place. Data is now not only publicly available; the question of transparency has also been made transparent. Public opinion has become a weapon in the decision-making process.
“Mirror Piece” consists of a mirror fitted with biometric analysis equipment. When someone looks in the mirror their face is scanned and their outward features are compared with those of famous people in a database. A mechanical voice then publicly identifies the visitor as one of these famous - or more accurately, notorious - people. The often controversial characteristics of these public figures are also announced. The public denunciation links the subject to all kinds of suspect practices and the unsuspecting visitor instinctively feels accused of the wrongdoings of their match.
In “Silence Is Golden But This Is No Silence”, Van Sonsbeeck investigates the value of this concept. Is being silent worth its weight in gold? The series consist of seven framed sheets of gold leaf, whose weights all represent a valuable object from Van Sonsbeeck’s studio. Two eurocents, for instance, are worth 3.06 grams of gold. Here again, not communicating proves difficult. There is always something waiting to fill the silence. Silence is fragile, and always will be.
Some people simply can’t imagine life without social media. The “Like to Death” project challenges this development. New media artist Geoffrey Lillemon and the Stööki art collective have made an animation that can be killed with the ‘like’ button. With every ‘like’ the figure of death disintegrates a bit more until nothing is left. By not ‘liking’ the project, on the other hand, you keep the work. It takes 20,000 ‘likes’ to destroy the figure altogether. The project’s makers are referencing the end of the curse of social media - digital networks that can likewise only be destroyed if a huge number of people give them up.