Essay: Data Embodiment as a Strategy for Citizen Engagement

I was asked to write an essay for the upcoming publication ‘Beyond Data‘, co-published by Baltan Laboratories (NL) and Kitchen Budapest (HU).

In the essay I refer to the underlying politics of data visualizations, explore the meaning of sensuality and metaphors in physical data embodiment projects and their possible link with citizen engagement. I feature three great artworks as example projects, namely: the Soil Library project by Koichi Kurita; Murmur Study by Christopher Baker and  Márton András Juhász; Memorial for the Victims of 25 October 1956 Massacre by Ferenc Callmeyer and József Kampfl.

‘…in the example projects described above, there is an indexical-iconic relationship between the form of representation and the represented data. Soil samples physically represent soil colours, tweets are represented as if they are stored on paper in an archive, and bronze balls are embedded in walls as if they are the physical traces of the bullets fired in 1956.’
 
‘Their shared quality is that they not only appeal to the cognitive but also the sensual parts of our minds.’
 
‘While ‘traditional’ data visualisations emphasise the effectiveness of building understanding, physical data visualisations focus on the power of personal experience in the perceiver. Both are aimed at attracting attention but physical engagement also has the potential to trigger multiple senses in the perceiver, thereby making it an individual experience.’

The book, edited by Angela Plohman and Melinda Sipos, focuses on the recent collaboration between the two labs: a series of workshops in which Dutch and Hungarian artists and designers explored new ways of embodying digital data.

The book will be launched at Dutch Electronic Art Festival (DEAF) 2012, on 18 May 2012. More info. Don’t miss the panel discussion on lab collaborations just before the book launch.

 
 
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