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Data as Art

MFG Archive

Today we examine the growing world of data art as profiled in a recent article in The Atlantic.


Art is as much about the technologies available to artists as it is the sociopolitical context in which it is created. A community of artists are creating conceptual works from data collected digitally, blurring the lines between what constitutes scientific data presentation and art. Data artists use large amounts of information to artistically represent the human condition. With technology able to instantly quantify even the most basic human activities into data points, these artists manipulate data in order to reveal something not only about 21st century life, but aspects of the human condition itself.


From Paint to Pixels’, originally published in The Atlantic examines the genre, in which artists translate large amounts of data into an aesthetic form. These artists fall into one of two categories – those that use data collected through self-tracking technology, and those that work with large bodies of scientifically collected data. Artist Laurie Frick falls in the former camp, using FitBit and mobile apps to create art from self-tracked data. One of her pieces, features 60 anodized panels – a physical representation of her daily walking patterns, collected over time. Artists David McCandless and Nathalie Miebach approach the genre using large bodies of collected data like global military spending budgets or weather data patterns.


The movement isn’t about reducing individuals to numbers, but rather highlighting complexity within the modern world by tackling issues like data and privacy. Some artists argue that they are not visualizing data and information, but instead providing a metaphor for the human experience. Others are helping scientists to think more creatively by representing their data in different ways. Through manipulating this data, these artists force us to examine our increasingly data-saturated culture and our dependent relationships with technology while confronting the uncertainty of the human condition through the medium of art.

What do you think about the work of data artists? Find out more from the original article from The Atlantic here, and let us know what you think by commenting below.


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