Defining Data as an Art Material
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Digital technology, and speci cally digital data, forms the backbone of nearly all our communications including machine to machine, human to machine, and, increasingly, human to human. It is unsurprising that one of the most prevalent materials of our time is used by artists to create work. This thesis defines data as an art material. It investigates the variety of manifestations of data when used in art, through the review of existing artwork and the development of new artworks and visualisations that use a dataset collected for this research. Through the lens of conceptualising data as an art material, a definition and manifesto of data art is put forward (Chapter 2). In addition, a taxonomy for describing data as an art material is proposed and its usage explored by applying it to a number of data art descriptions and by analysing a database of data artworks tagged with relevant terms (Chapter 3). Temporal, biological, and real-time, terms from the taxonomy, are particularly relevant to the way in which digital technology mediates our connection to nature. To explore these forms of data within artwork, a collaboration with Dr Chris Faulkes, Reader in Evolutionary Ecology, facilitated the design and implementation of an electronic system to collect data from a colony of animals. Chapter 4 describes the tracking system which resulted in a real-time stream of biological temporal data. Translations of this data are explored in more detail through the practical application of various computational techniques including scientific analysis (Chapter 5), animation, sonification, data visualisation (Chapter 6) and soft robotic objects (Chapter 7). The thesis demonstrates that an inanimate object, animated through the translation of data, can have a body language through which to effectively convey characteristics of living things (Chapter 8). Finally, public engagement events are presented in Chapter 9, with reflections, contributions and future work concluded in Chapter 10.
- Theses