Post Art Science Museum’s reflections: 
“Data will help us remember, but will it help us forget? It will help advertisers see people as statistics, but will it help us remember these statistics are people?”

For sure, data can be used as a tool for the social/environmental/political/social change and transformation, but it is also refreshing to see how data can be used to create contemporary art and show how pervasive (and intrusive) our data (eg. digital footprints) can be. As I go along sharing my thoughts and perspectives relating to big data, i thought this will also be a good chance to share some snippets of my memorable moments of the exhibitions.

You may refer to the link here: http://www.marinabaysands.com/museum/big-bang-data.html

Art embraces Technology
When I think of creativity, the thought of using imagination to create original ideas, or to invent something pops up. This is what happened with the Asian debut of Big Bang data – an exhibition from the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) and Fundación Telefónica in Spain. The exhibition explores several contemporary issues centred around data explosion that is radically transforming the society today.

 Before we enter the exhibition, we were questioned by Anita, our guide, on what “big data” is to us. Some of us mentioned “opposite of small data” (like duh!), which essentially means data that is scalable and can be used for other purposes.
With technical advances, storage capacity of information, speed of processing, and data collection and analysis, all helped to push the presence of Big Data. Understanding that big data is continuously collected, and highly flexible (as compared to past old records which possessed a mobility problem), such phenomenon has the ability to cause a huge impact on societal issues like  economics, policing, security, science, education, policy, governance, health care, public health, and much more.
Its power lies in its central power to network and re-analyse information collected from highly disparate contexts which can be used to generate unanticipated insights. For example the learning I got while conducting the tool analysis for Quijote Interactivo, even when I am not a native Spanish speaker. The information uploaded onto the Internet allowed me to find out what was that about – and data sets are no longer static (or tangible) archives because they are now capable of generating new insights indefinitely.
So back to the exhibition:
 Anita mentioned about how digital artists found their own unique way to present data and this digital installation was the first one we saw, where every single pixel of data was calculated by mathematical principle and presented using projection.
The artist, Ryoji Ikeda, translated the data into an immersive experience which definitely opened our eyes to how data can be visualised and experienced. Those pixels also showed the vast amounts of data quantities each of us generated in the world which blown me away, definitely.
Close up of the projections while the pixels are moving around

This is an example of how beauty is translated with data. Like what Christie had mentioned in her blog (http://digihue.tumblr.com/):

“the exhibit comprises of several machines that actually convert the data from stock exchanges at the end of the day to form a stunning visual of something akin to the night sky. The exhibition was created in conjunction with IBM and shows how data en masse can actually be used to create something stunningly beautiful. The combination of both economic data (which tends to be a source of stress for many) with solar systems may not be a common topic, but the metaphor behind the exhibit is both stunning and beautiful – data sources with the connotations of stress and industrialization can and are turned into sources of relaxation – something that benefits everyone”.

I couldn’t agree more. Who would have thought finance data (an industry often associated with stress and high working hours) can be translated into a constellation (something so beautiful, stress-free and calming)

Seeing how data can be visualised in numerous forms – in the forms of post cards, compressed film screens, giant earth globes, digital interactives, and so on, it is interesting to think how in the current distractions-filled world, how we have to design aesthetic pleasing visuals to portray certain information. How, unless with motivation, central processing of information will not occur.

The evolution of data collection and storage too. Growing demands call for challenges in handling large data sets which caused the demise of old storage methods (e.g. diskette). Remember the good old days where we have to save our documents in the diskette? All these are obsolete now with cloud storage or the even with 1TB Samsung thumb drive that provided way more mobility and convenience.

Exploring possibilities of storing our unique information in our DNA, the continuity of human beings ensure our existence of our data even after we have passed on. There will be no worries of “unsaved data” then.

However, doesn’t this mean we are more susceptible to intrusion? Data then not only is pervasive as it is all around us, created at every single second every single day, but it is going to intrude our personal space as well, allowing others to have access across different contexts. It is already happening now – where my digital footprints are being used by corporate companies to push certain advertising messages to me.

I just bought my computer yesterday, and I have not installed Microsoft Office yet – and now whenever I am reading articles off the Internet, I get banner ads on the promotional prices for Microsoft Office. Perfect.

Are we allowed to say no? It seemed like we are trading in our convenience for privacy. When I upload my pictures online onto social media for a track record, with location tags, those metadata that are generated were being “used against me” when advertisers try to influence my future spending habits.

The creepiness of such data usage can be seen with this exhibit – where this artist collected trash and tested the DNA of e.g. cigarette butts collected, and try to model out how the individual will look like with the given DNA information.

Stalker points +100

Before we click “submit” to the new post we want to post on Facebook, or even this WordPress for that matter, maybe we want to take a break and think: Who has the right to use/control/own the information collected from us?

Or we can even think of: Do we have the right to enable/disable the use/control/own the information collected from us?

As we are slowly moving in to become a smart nation, the future for us may be digitised elevator notice boards with facial recognition software to check in guests at our condominiums (bye bye, security guard uncle); in-built interactive mirrors at home giving us the news/information we want; mass-manufactured/cloned babies (?!); and so on. My point is, the opportunities are limitless with data. But be careful of the drawbacks

Let me end off with Gabriel’s reflection of the museum

Cheers!

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