A list of my favourite things to see at the Big Bang Data exhibition at Somerset House

Big Bang Data

Big Bang Data is on until the 28th Feb 2016.

If you find yourself with a little bit of spare time around the holidays, you should go to Somerset House to see Big Bang Data.

I worked on the Big Bang Data’s website, so I had the opportunity to see it as soon as it opened earlier this month. The show presents work under a loose theme of data, and touches on many aspects relating to data production, collection, privacy and ownership.

Internet Machine

Timo Arnall’s Internet Machine is the first thing you see when coming into the exhibition. The few minutes it lasts encourage you to consider the physicality of the internet infrastructure. The humming of the machines evokes their smell and the heat they generate.

The film made me think of Ingrid Burrington’s essay in which she reminds the reader that data not only takes up space, but also huge amounts of resources: water, land, and electricity.

Users accept this information asymmetry in part because of a misunderstanding: they believe that the internet does not take up space and, since it doesn’t take up real space, that our data isn’t really somewhere else or in the hands of someone else. But by placing our data in the cloud, and in the hands of private companies that readily comply with national security directives and sell our data to third parties, it’s effectively no longer ours.

— Ingrid Burrington, The Cloud Is Not the Territory

Networks of London

Ingrid Burrington and Dan Williams, Networks of London, 2015

Ingrid Burrington and Dan Williams, Networks of London, 2015

Dan Williams worked with Ingrid Burrington on a piece inspired by her Infrastructure Field Guide to New York. The result is an installation which explores the internet and surveillance related infrastructure in the vicinity of Somerset House. It looks at the locations of fibre cables, important telecoms buildings and networks such as the ANPR Ring of Steel.

Where the F**k was I

James Bridle, Where the F**k was I, 2011

James Bridle, Where the F**k was I, 2011

James Bridle’s Where The F**k was I is also on display. It presents nearly a year’s worth of location data collected by James’s phone without his knowledge. Places recorded included locations he never visited and ones he has already forgotten by the time he extracted the data from his phone.

This digital memory sits somewhere between experience and non-experience; it is also an approximation; it is also a lie. These location records do not show where I was, but an approximation based on the device’s own idea of place, its own way of seeing. They cross-reference me with digital infrastructure, with cell towers and wireless networks, with points created by others in its database. Where I correlate location with physical landmarks, friends and personal experiences, the algorithms latch onto invisible, virtual spaces, and the extant memories of strangers.

— James Bridle, Where The F**k was I? (A Book)

Data Licenses

IF, Data Licenses, 2015

IF, Data Licenses, 2015

Sarah T Gold’s recently launched studio, IF, presents Data Licenses: an attempt at developing a new way of defining data ownership in the way that is understood by the people who create the data in the first place. It imagines a system where the users have a way of indicating how much data they wish to share and with whom, shifting the power away from the companies hiding the terms and conditions in legalese, and back to the consumer.

You can also see the Submarine Cable Map by TeleGeography (a company producing telecommunication network maps since 1989), Laura Poitras’s interview with Edward Snowden, and Ryoji Ikeda’s data.tron. Don’t miss it.