A one-day series of interconnected talks and discussions on the cultural and political dimensions of mapping and data collection/visualisation.
Our data flows through ubiquitous networks, data collection points and hovers in nebulous data clouds. It is read and processed by machines rather than by humans. While it might be stored on server farms somewhere beyond our knowledge for decades, it tends to disappear from our personal memory, once it has lost our immediate attention. With every electronic payment, phone call, text message, travel, visit to a website or dentist, we produce digital information about ourselves that we hardly are aware of, nor we make further use of usually. At the same time and through all our activities we collect very specific bits and pieces of information which we rarely share with others.
The recent past has seen new initiatives and projects on open data, collaborative mapping and artistic data visualisations attempting to unravel the complex processes which drive the world. Before this background the speakers will discuss issues such as database and mapping as documentary, the ownership of data, the politics and aesthetics of visualisation and the human factor in mapping and data collection.
The program is devised by Susanne Jaschko, a Berlin based independent curator of contemporary art with a focus on public and experimental art and digital culture, with the assistance of Giovanna Esposito Yussif, an independent curator currently based in Helsinki. Jointly they will moderate the seminar.
9.30 Welcome by Juha Huuskonen, introduction by Susanne Jaschko
10.00 KEYNOTE | Brian Holmes (US/FR)
11.00 SESSION 1
Christian Nold (UK), An Internet of People – building a post oil network
It seems clear that in the face of climate change, peak oil and social breakdown the present system will have to dramatically change. We will have to build a post-oil network composed of ‘Islands of People and Things’. Hopefully these islands will not be physical islands separated by water but local units of organization and production. ‘The Internet of People’ enables a vision of globally interconnected workshops that change the type of things we produce, as well as our social and cultural relations in which we do so. We don’t have to wait for major climate disasters to happen before we re-orientate itself. Small open source workshops already exist in most towns; the social and technical networking of these workshops will form the global backbone for open collaboration in a future Internet of People. We need methods for building and negotiating shared social protocols and standards for an Internet of People that will allow hackers, companies and governments to work together. We need to collectively articulate the specific qualities of social standards that will make the transition to an Internet of People possible. Mapping is one of the key tools and metaphors that can bring together proximity, affect and system thinking.
Baruch Gottlieb (CA/DE), Where are our maps taking us?
Guy Debord’s speculative mapping promised to emancipate the citizen from the anesthesia of urban routine. The Israeli Defense Force’s use of Debord’s strategies at Nablus in 2002, shows that technology for the liberation of the individual can equally be used for mass-control. We need control to feel safe to be free. Maps play an essential role in both sides of this equation.
13.00 SESSION 2
Graham Harwood, YoHa (UK), Database as documentary
The database machine exists between states: it exists nowhere in particular and everywhere; it is both physical (in the machine) and also operates as an idea; it is implicated throughout our lives, sandwiched between the twin edifices of experience and the model of that experience.This lecture adopts the view that databases carry the same seeds of creativity that early documentary makers saw in film. Both have a clear relationship to a form of factual truth that can empower, both have the capacity for propaganda and deception, both form views which are privileged by their authors. The film director directs the eyepiece of the camera through the conduct of the cameraman and the editor shapes and cuts the film to create an agreed view for a set audience and the promotion of a particular ideology.The database administrator also constructs views of the data that can only be seen by particular roles within the enterprise. In association with analysts they also produce queries that iterate over the data atoms to configure them into particular narratives formed from the enterprise’s ideology. Given this correlation, what methodologies exist or need to be developed for artists to interrogate databases as documentary as they invisibly, yet tangibly glue our lives together? Databases amplify some truths and help to disprove others at the same time create crisis, energies for change; how can art critically reflect on the way the relational machine creates new knowledge and with it power?
Kari A. Hintikka (FI), From open data to network aesthetics
Open data refers to data produced by national or communal administration and other public sector and it is freely reusable like open source software. In broader context, it refers to all kind of freely usable data, like peer created content with Creative Commons license or Amazon offering its customer database to programmers for creating new interfaces and applications. However, the possibilities of open data are just beginning to unravel, how information is created, remixed, recycled and consumed? Finnish philosopher Ilkka Niiniluoto (1987) has classified different levels of data as follows: entropy > data > information > knowledge > wisdom; meaning that the former level or value of data can be refined and wrap up to more intellectual ‘capital’ as a human ‘product’. The Internet is transforming into a real-time web, instant data streams (status updates, comments and likings in social media), mashups, the increment of sensors and trackers are uploading real-time data which includes location-based data, weather conditions, amount of penguins or traffic jams. Layering this raw data we get information enriching our daily, personal, cultural, democratic or business sphere; this emerging wholeness is creating a new cultural sphere: network aesthetics. Information aesthetics can be based to static data and single image, but the nature of information aesthetics of the Net is real-time based, dynamic and connected, changing eternally when looking and interacting with it and unique in every second for every user.
RYBN.org, The Antidatamining series
On May 6, 2010, the Dow Jones Average Industrial Index has fallen about 900 points in less than twenty minutes, the loss was estimated of one trillion dollars. On a common agreement, all the transactions made this day between 14h40s and 15hr were canceled. This instantaneous financial crash was triggered by high frequency trading robots. Flooded under millions of fake information, the robots have been subjected to a violent feedback effect, some stocks have been transferred more than 2000 times in a single second. This flash-crash enlightens the actual architecture of the markets and their information systems, their particular temporality and scale, and their virtuality. As a final step for the ‘Antidatamining series’, RYBN.ORG has undertaken to build its own trading robot, launching it on the markets and tracing its activity on this abnormal time and space.
15.00 SESSION 3
Wouter Van den Broeck (BE), Mapping towards a data-driven society
We increasingly use digital media and computational devices in our daily activities and leave behind a sizable amount of digital traces while doing so. The proliferation of mobile devices and the incorporation of various sensing technologies in these, further increases the scale and scope of those traces. New kinds of systems that take advantage of this ever growing data supply have the potential to transform the way we live our lives. We are, however, just at the beginning of realizing this potential. Current day internet search engines and translation tools are but the first hints of what can be achieved through the pairing of massive amounts of data, clever algorithms, and ample computer power. Any useful data-driven application depends on the ability to extract pertinent information from the available data. A powerful tool for tackling this challenge is a process in which data elements are related in such way that information is exposed; this process is called mapping and can be particularly interesting when it links data elements from diverse sources. The ‘Live Social Semantics’ project, for example, links online and offline data on social activity. This integration gives rise to fascinating opportunities for ‘augmented social reality’ applications. While the linking of diverse data sources enables useful applications, it also elicits pointed privacy concerns. Absolute privacy precludes such applications and is therefore not tenable. Most of us are indeed willing (not to say eager) to give up some privacy in exchange for beneficial functionality. But how far are we willing to go? Is the utopia of complete freedom of information, which implies the abolition of privacy, desirable or even attainable? These issues will have to be dealt with through a transformation of the cultural context which governs coordinated behavior by means of shared semantics, shared expectations and shared intention–behavior associations. The seeds of this transformation are being laid today by the designers, artists and scientists that explore the opportunities and consequences of these data-driven systems, as well as the role mapping will play in all this.
Alessandro Ludovico (IT), Face as the dangerous link between your online and offline persona
Social networking is naturally addictive. It’s about exploring something very familiar that has never been available before: staying in touch with past and present friends and acquaintances in a single, potentially infinite, virtual space. The phenomenon challenges us psychologically, creating situations that previously were not possible. Before the rise of social networking, former friends and acquaintances would tend to drift away from us and potentially become consigned to our personal histories. Having a virtual space with (re)active people constantly updating their activities is the basic, powerful fascination of the social network. But there’s another attraction, based on the elusive sport (or perhaps urge) to position ourselves. The answer to the fundamental identity question, “who am I?” can be given only in relation to the others that we interact with (friends, family, work colleagues, and so on), and the answer to this question seems clearer after we take a look at our list of social network friends.
16.30 SESSION 4
Theun Karelse (NL), Recipe routes, the stomach as a compass
This talk will briefly describe the workings of Boskoi (www.boskoi.org), an app for foragers. It will explore some aspects of the history of foraging as a political act, on public participation, on the scientific value of the database and collecting ethnobotanic knowledge.
Primož Kovačič (SLO/KE), Mapping: no big deal
Primož Kovačič will present two mapping projects, both situated in Kenyan slums. Map Kibera originated as an artist initiative inviting residents to participate in the mapping process and to build a neighbourhood news network. Learning from Map Kibera, the new project, Map Mathare just started and represents an even more radical approach to participation.
Primož is joining the seminar over Skype together with Douglas Namale and Simon Kokoyo. Douglas has been involved with citizen journalism projects in Kibera for many years and has also been working with Map Kibera for the past year and a half. Currently he is leading the initiative of naming the streets in Kibera. Simon Kokoyo is the field coordinator in Mathare with the Map Mathare program. He was born and raised in Mathare and he’s been working there for the past 20 years. He is also the driving force behind the blog:matharevalley.wordpress.com
Tapio Mäkelä (FI), Ecocaching
In his presentation Finnish media artist Tapio Mäkelä will mainly focus on his latest project Ecocaching (http://ecocaching.net), a locative game exploring ecology in cities. Players search boxes called ecocaches hidden in city space according to GPS location and some hints. Each ecocache contains a task related with the local environment. The tasks range from green spotting (observing and collecting animal and plant life) to waste spotting and interventions in the everyday. For the game’s premiere in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in November last year, first ecocaches were created in a workshop with local participants prior to the festival.
2011 Seminar on Flickr