Wednesday, 2 September 2015

New Demos section launched with an essay on Big Data and ‘the Cloud'

We are pleased to announce the launch of Demos, a new thematic section of Big Data & Society. Co-edited by Richard Rogers and Paolo Ciuccarelli, Demos curates and provides commentary upon projects related to Big Data & Society, in the form of an essay with text, images and links. The projects collected and discussed in the Demos section range from the media arts to software tools, visualisations, interactive graphics, interfaces, databases, map layers, websites, apps and other online and mobile phenomena related to Big Data & Society, broadly speaking.  The first essay -- Deconstructing the cloud: Responses to Big Data phenomena from social sciences, humanities and the arts -- by Sabine Niederer (research director at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Digital Media and Creative Industries) and Raymond Taudin Chabot (visual artist and independent photographer and film director in Amsterdam) examines responses to Big Data and ‘the Cloud’ across the (computational and digital) arts, humanities and social sciences. They open with a historical parallel from the 1960s, and Stewart Brand’s campaign to have NASA spacecraft turn their cameras of space exploration homewards, and release photographs of ‘the Earth.’ Brand's monumental Whole Earth Catalog, the influential publication series (1968 -) of do-it-yourself culture is one of the more well-known responses to the technological enthusiasm of the day, giving additional substance to the counter-culture movement. The Catalog’s first issue contained a then novel photograph of the whole earth seen from space. Steve Jobs later referred to the Whole Earth Catalog as a paperback Google. How to respond these days to ‘the Cloud,’ including cloud-related practices and epistemologies? The essay discusses  projects that step behind the scenes of everyday web destinations, such as Floodwatch which, via a browser add-on, collects all ads served to participating web users, creating a massive database and visual display of contemporary ad culture. Other projects discussed include data science analyses and artistic outputs relating to such contemporary digital cultural practices as selfie portraiture and quantified events; another builds on a discussion with a predator drone operator.

For future editions the Demo section editors welcome input and proposals for reflections on projects related to big data, small data, thick data, data markets, dataveillance, data flow, database logics, platform politics, code and coding, access, distributive aesthetics, visualisation critique, cloud governance and so forth.