Every thing every time

Dan Hett wrote on Facebook today:

Did you know: the ‘every thing, every time’ signs have written almost 80,000 poems about the city. see one for yourself at Manchester Central Library until Aug 9th.

Every thing, every time‘ is a data poetry project, in which Dan is involved, in collaboration with artist Naho Matsuda. Commissioned by CityVerve in partnership with FutureEverythingNaho Matsuda created a computer programme that processes the live data from numerous sources in a ‘smart city’ (e.g., real-time weather data, transport data, air pollution data, event data), giving it a set of rules for shaping and presenting each line of the never ending and ever changing poem on split-flap display.

There had been some issues with these installations across Manchester. For example, it was ported that the Hulme Community one was powered down last week (though someone joked that it could have been a concept poem a la John Cage). Nevertheless, these digital poems did make the city more charming, telling stories and describing what’s happening in a smart city, making the invisible visible. As people at Manchester get on with their everyday events and interact with each other, more data are being generated and processed, contributing to the writing of poetry.

Data aesthetics goes hand in hand with critical data studies, one of my current research interests. I’m interested in data art not only because it is a critical reflection and creative response to societal and political phenomenon. Art, as we have seen in recent years, has become a powerful language for communicating research outcomes. I am interested in data art also from the perspective of critical data studies: how we can tell stories in smart cities and in what language? Why do the available data streams seem so neutral: weather, transport, traffic. Are they really neutral? What about other data sources? Why are they not available? The basic question about what we have and what we have not is quite profound; it raises all sorts of data (in)equality questions and power issues.

Who would have thought that the data poetry approach could be made so sociological?

Info and more poems at: everythingeverytime.net

And it’s featured in Click.


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