From data-wonder to data-cynicism and back again

. . . in an attempt to reconcile with the mute, datafied version of myself, confined to the cells of a Big-data vault and dislocated in a remote data silo, I dream of an enlivened data-self . . .

I have always been curious in exploring the relationship between tools and their context.

Trying to grasp the state of things that will not sit still, when looking at the thing through different lenses, my practice and practice-led research, thus, generates potentially unbounded sequences and iterations.

Actively thinking with complexity in mind, I encourage encounters between diagrammatic drawings, film and acts of modelling and remodelling. Trying to make sense (but possibly nonsense), loosely formed stories are reduced to conceptual / visual propositions, that do not aim to solve problems, but to frame them, intensify them and draw attention to them as things in themselves.

In short, I curate and present decentred, constellations of signs and utterances, which actively converse but remain inconclusive.

Data is full of life.

My life.

But it feels disembodied.



An empty shell.

To fund my practice and research, for the last two decades I have worked within the data industry, and there is no doubt that thinking with data has impacted upon and fed my thinking. Currently I am a Data Fellow sponsored by the South West Creative Technology Network (SWCTN). Working with a cohort of fellows, with a range of skills and interests from creative, academic and industry backgrounds, I am approaching this fellowship as an artistic researcher, to explore the human-data realm as a supranatural force of life in the world.

Methodologies I am exploring, include;

  • How to get inside the machine to encounter what lies behind human-data (dis)connections,
  • Ways to summon supranatural data,
  • Listening for a new form of human-data voice and what form(s) of (mis)communication may evolve.

My process began with a simple data set to explore matters of the heart and mind.

Outside of the machine, a series of hand-drawn diagrams, diagrammatically reason with Sternberg’s triarchic theorem for love.

The highlighter, a substitute for the digital luminance of the screen.

A slow sequence of iterative data sets begin to mirror the dimensionless space of the digital world.

Drawing data as a visual instrument, am I becoming algorithm?

Patterns and associations are forming a literacy that is starting to speak to me beyond words.

In the chapter ‘Smashing Screens’, from ‘What comes after Farce’, Hal Foster draws on the condition ‘apophenia’; which is the tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful patterns between unrelated or random things, such as perceiving patterns in meaningless data. Writing about the artist Hito Steyerl and her use of the term ‘The algorithmic nonconscious’, Foster refers to the practice of Steyerl as one which attempts to identify with technology as a thing, in which the digital is against our interests and without our agency.

In the book ‘Reality Hunger, David Shields presents a collage of unreferenced quotations that destabilizes genres and time, in which he accumulates associations, creating a rhythm that is both playful and perplexing.

The term ‘Hauntology’ is a term coined by the philosopher Derrida in his 1993 book ‘Spectres of Marx’. The concept refers to the return or persistence of elements from the past, as in the manner of a ghost.

. . . The language in which we talk to ourselves as we endeavour to make sense of what is around and within us…and which in part lifts us above a world in which we would otherwise be drowned, is itself a wonder…I no longer dream of rising above the great sea of language to make sense of it from some imaginary extra-linguistic vantage point. But I still rejoice in its million nooks, its thousand lights and shadows and its endlessly folded depths . . .

Tallis, R. ‘In Defence of Wonder and Other Philosophical Reflections’. Acumen. 2012. p5

In ‘On Language as Such and on the Language of Man’, Walter Benjamin defines language as more than a tool with which to communicate facts alone, but a symbol of expression, which includes the uncommunicable as well as the communicable.

In his essay on the Tower of Babel, Derrida relates the paradoxical nature of translation, drawing attention to the Tower of Babel as a means of confusion, in which God condemned man to a multiplicity of tongues.

. . . It matters what matters we use to think other matters with; it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what knots knot knots, what thoughts think thoughts, what descriptions describe descriptions, what ties tie ties. It matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories . . .

Haraway, D. ‘Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene’. Duke University Press Books, 2016. p12

 . . . a stone lying along a path can be clutter, a tool, or a piece of a wall—it all depends on the context the agent brings to the perception of the stone. People find meaning in the environment even when there is no semantic information there at all: clouds can look like trains and elephants; the burn marks in toast can look like a religious icon; tree branches can look like human arms. The way we perceive our environment in the moment is through information pickup, but the way we understand our experience is through narrative. Humans make sense of the world through stories. Unlike our nearest primate cousins, we have the ability to follow a substantial narrative such as in a conventional-length movie. Our brains don’t only react to each moment of action; we can also integrate complex threads of story over a significant period of time. We bring this ability to our own lives and how we find meaning in our actions and experiences. What we do in a given day might or might not have linear causality or rationale. But, we can’t help seeing a narrative when looking back on those disparate events. Our personal stories are what we construct for ourselves in hindsight. . .

Hinton, A. ‘Understanding Context: Environment, Language, and Information Architecture’.

Online source: March 9, 2015

Sourced : 28th October 2020.