Data as Culture

Data as Culture

Data as Culture is the term I gave to the process of selecting, commissioning and curating data-driven artworks for the UK’s Open Data Institute (ODI). The first activity in the Data as Culture programme in 2012 was an open call to artists to propose ideas for data-driven artworks – art that  explores data’s properties, provenances, and peculiarities. For the first exhibition, a total of nine works, three new commissions and six existing ones, were all displayed at the Institute.

In curating the showcase for the ODI we wanted to select a range of works that would not just reflect different data sources, but that would challenge our understanding of what data is, and how it may affect and reflect our lives. […] The works range from geomagnetic data visualisations, to wall painted cellular automata, to tabloid newspapers of search term trend graphs – all tangible interventions into the mass accretion of data around us.

Quote from Julie Freeman and Sophie McDonald (MzTEK) about Data as Culture’s first exhibition.

The ODI began operating on 1st October 2012. With diverse stakeholders including Cabinet Office, public and private sectors, both academic and developer communities, it faced a substantial challenge to create its identity, and set the bar for a new cultural development: open data. The potential for open data is the same as the web is today. How then to begin a journey which communicates, as the ODI’s co-founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee tweeted from the centre of the Olympics opening ceremony, “this is for everyone”.

“Data as Culture” was one of the first budget decisions by the then CEO of the ODI acknowledging the strong belief that it would be important to the development of the organisations identity. We underestimated the profound, and pivotal impact that it would have not only on the Institute itself, but across many communities around the world.

Data as Culture exhibitions feature a range of commissioned and loaned data-driven art works that do not just reflect different data sources: they challenge our understanding of what data is, and how it may affect and reflect our lives. The works range from geomagnetic data visualisations, to wall painted cellular automata, to tabloid newspapers of search term trend graphs, hacked cardigans, live coding compositions – all tangible interventions into the mass accretion of data around us. We have worked with 29 artists since 2012.

Exhibitions to date:

Exhibition Name Curator(s) Date
Data as Culture Julie Freeman & Sophie McDonald 2012
Data as Culture 2 Shiri Shalmy, with Julie Freeman, Honor Harger, Tom Highham 2014
Data Anthropologies: Thomson & Craighead Hannah Redler 2015
Data Anthropologies: Love is an Act Hannah Redler 2015
Thinking Out Loud Hannah Redler & Alex McLean 2016
The New Observatory Hannah Redler & Sam Skinner for FACT, Liverpool 2017
LMAO Julie Freeman & Hannah Redler 2018

The programme is currently led by Julie Freeman and Hannah Redler. Exhibitions can be viewed by appointment, please contact info@theodi.org. Archive site featuring all DaC artists and artworks: culture.theodi.org.