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(Interview) How artistic is Big Data?

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Daniel Canogar is a world renowned Spanish artist who attempts to provide a physical experience of intangible phenomenon such as brain synapses, memory, the flow of information through the Internet, through technological artwork.

Can Data be artistic, should advances in Big Data be debated, or should they only be reserved for engineers and experts?

Here is a short video of Daniel’s latest projects:

 

We were lucky enough to get to sit down with Daniel last week just before his speech at The Hive’s Art and Big Data event, where he spoke of his latest piece which will attempt to represent Big Data in a tangible way.

–          Can you please describe this Big Data-themed installation you are working on?

The installation is still in development and has not been finalized yet. It will be an experiential art installation, an art experience that you enter, that surrounds you and that you will actively be a part of.

The installation will consist of a large room that will be picking out the bodies of the public and projecting lots of live, streaming data. It is about an excess of streaming live data. It’s like putting data into people’s skin, so that as they move around the room, the data will continue projecting onto their bodies. It’s about giving the public a very physical, sensual experience of data as something very tangible, not something that is hidden in computers and the cloud.

–          What story are you telling through this installation?

There is no real narrative. I see it as giving people a chance to bathe themselves in data, to be immersed by it in a very physical way, as a way integrating it as a new reality of the world we live in.

–          What advice or words of warning would you give to people working in Big Data today?

My only advice is to come and experience my artwork. Art has the ability to embrace a lot of complexity, even contradictory ideas, and Big Data is a very complex phenomenon that cannot be described or written off in one superficial description.

I think of art as a media and a mediation that we can use as a tool to understand the world we live in, and that is why I think it will be more interesting to experience Big Data.

–          What does Big Data mean to you?

I don’t come from an engineering background, so I am seeing this phenomenon from the outside. Above all, I see it as a paradigm shift, affecting us in ways that are so fundamental that most of us are not even aware of it. Whenever there has been paradigm changes in the past (most of them caused by new technologies) artists have been there to try to understand what those changes are about.

I think of Big Data as an infrastructure, that unlike an aqueduct, or the transcontinental system, we cannot see, which makes it hard for the general public to understand and grasp it.

–          Why choose to represent such an enormous concept, which is still in its early stages, where the public is not very aware yet, through art?

It’s because it’s in its early stages that we all need to jump in, introduce ourselves and be part of the picture. Like almost all technologies, it can have some very detrimental applications, and some very beneficial ones. As humans, we need to get involved and give it a direction that will be beneficial and not harmful.

People are already becoming very aware of it, but only through small snippets of information which makes them very fearful and very paranoid. It’s important to give people a fuller picture of what big data is about.

–          How do you envision society’s future through Big Data?

I think that we are in the Wild West years of Big Data. We need to create some ground rules for fair play. It’s an incredible tool that will allow us to solve some of the major challenges that we are facing on this planet. Another side of that is the Big Brother world, and I think that both of those possibilities exist. I want to dive in as an artist, a consumer, and a user of technology.

To watch Daniel’s speech at global_181486962, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YBAOJ_1lVA

For more information on Daniel’s work, please visit, http://www.danielcanogar.com/

For more information on innovation in Big Data, please visit, http://www.innovation-prime.com/

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