Data as Culture | Data as Politics: Creativity and curation in a post-digital world

I’ve been let loose to curate the first Creative Informatics Lab since lockdown (17th Sept 2020 – sign up here).

These last few months have been really difficult and have thrown many of my plans and commitments into freefall. I’m only now beginning to get back some kind of grip on actioning future projects. I will catch up with pre-pandemic projects asap, but in the meantime, I have been working on this event which will hopefully address and discuss some of the big concerns I – and others – have about creativity, art and data-driven technologies.

As one of the professional and existential concerns to have affected my work during the pandemic, I won’t be appearing in person at this event, but have instead recorded an animated video which will hopefully explain some of the issues and provocations I feel need exploring in an increasingly data-driven cultural environment. Yes, it’s in Lego, and is very much a tribute to Juliet J. Fall, whose Lego author-meets-critic response to Stuart Elden’s Birth of Territory at the AAG in Tampa in 2014 was a hugely formative experience for me as a new PhD student. I didn’t fully understand the politics and methods involved in her response back then, but I was completely captivated and excited that this type of work could be accepted in academic venues such as the AAG. To me it was so much more incisive than a dry academic paper, and is a method I have been keen to replicate not only in terms of Lego presentations, but in my wider work in theory and artistic interventions.

My own animated curatorial statement can be seen above.

What I wanted to do with this Lab is to take a critical look at data as creative material; whether ‘creativity’ in this context means purely economic, or artistic innovation.

“Data is being used increasingly for creative practice and for technical and commercial  innovation. But data is not neutral; containing biases and structural influences that make its use as a creative material problematic. Data might arguably be ‘the new oil’ in terms of how lucrative it can be, but it is never a ‘raw’ material, and awareness of how it can perpetuate gendered and racial stereotypes is crucial in the development and implementation of ethical considerations in all projects that champion ‘data driven innovation’. This Creative Informatics Lab asks some provocative questions about data, and how it manifests in the cultural economy and in the political sphere. Drawing together debates about the purpose and practice of data art, its curation and its value, the Lab also showcases examples of digital art that are both politically critical and culturally productive; a balancing act it may be increasingly difficult to achieve in a post-pandemic, post-digital world.”

I was lucky enough to assemble a stellar line up for this Lab. I’d long wanted to get Dan Hett and Julie Freeman involved in Creative Informatics, and have been spending the last few years unintentionally missing Ramon Amaro at various events. To be able to bring these wonderful thinkers and artists together with Shannon Vallor as host seems too good to be true.

The icing on the cake is having local artists Fabi Fabi and Nick-e Melville also contributing to the Lab; each in their own way using data and technology for critical and creative purposes.

I’ll do a write up/review of how the Lab goes for the Creative Informatics research blog in due course. Let’s see how our hybrid on/offline first newly rebooted post-lockdown Lab goes!

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