Digital Futures at V&A

Today I gave a small talk about ‘participatory cartography’ and the wonderful OpenStreetMap at V&A‘s very well-attended digital futures event, curated by the fabulous Irini Mirena Papadimitriou.

My argument was: maps are not just a technical instrument (for navigation, visualisation, organisation of data), political statement or pieces of art, maps also are (and have always been) social products, co-constructed by people with different skills, knowledge and interests. Given the latter, maps are embodiment of our everyday activities, linking and representing time, space, contexts, emotions, ideologies. I used a photograph taken at the railway stations at Farnham and Alton to show how OpenStreetMap has started to have an impact on our daily life: The maps about the local areas are based on OpenStreetMap available under the CC BY-SA licence (and contain some Ordnance Survey data). The slides for my presentation ‘partcipatory cartography and OpenStreetMap’ can be found here.

Farnham Local Maps based on the OpenStreetMap
Farnham Local Maps based on the OpenStreetMap

The highlight of the day was to learn those innovative and creative projects my fellow presenters have undertaken, and engaged in some interesting conversations.

The Contours project presented by Fabio Lattanzi Antinori showed the soundscaping project he did (in collaboration with Bare Conductive + and Alicja Pytlewska) using conductive ink / paint to sense human touches. This immersive artwork features interactive tapestries reacting to the movements and the presence of the audience. This can be extended to fashion design. Indeed, that could be a step forward for perceptive media if the clothes we wear can sense our emotions and moods. What if it goes this way: the suit, made of conductive materials, will sense our emotions, and then feed the data directly back to other technologies worn or embedded in our bodies and intravenously inject the media (music, video clips, radio, tv programmes) to our brain. Do we really want this?

The research on the users of Polymetros by Ben Bengler was also interesting. But the project that really stood out for me was Gabriele Dini and David Hedberg‘s Colony (data manifestation). The idea for this installation emerged from RCA’s Dataspace programme. Dini and Hedberg connected the straw-made honeycombs to Arduino, which was monitoring social media data (e.g., Tweets) and other transactional open data (e.g., data from the Transport of London, commuter numbers, passenger journeys information).

The connection between natural food products and urban habitat was hugely interesting and visually beautiful. It also gave me the idea how if we deepened the connection between animals or insects’s behaviours to real-time data in urban environments to demonstrate the environmental impacts of human activities? For example, there are anecdotal accounts of sheeps being disturbed by wind turbines. Perhaps we can approach energy companies and get some data from them (e.g., wind turbines operation hours, noise level when wind turbines are in operation), and do an Arduino project to visualise these anecdotal accounts of domestic animals being adversely affected. Just for fun.

Here are some photos taken at the event. Look forward to the next one.

V&A Digital Futures, 21 January 2014
V&A Digital Futures, 21 January 2014
V&A Digital Futures, 21 January 2014
V&A Digital Futures, 21 January 2014

V&A Digital Futures 21 January 2014


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