Data and Authority, part III

The lovely city of Edinburgh. Photo courtesy of author.
The lovely city of Edinburgh. Photo courtesy of author.

In my last few posts, I tackled issues around authority, power, and objectivity in the worlds of data and mapping. My project for this fellowship involves mapping and representing the stories told by a group of Londoner’s digital data, so it makes sense that I would need to grapple with these issues. But even I didn’t think that I would have this much to say about them. As it turns out, the closer I inch to the end of this fellowship, the more I uncover things worth thinking, writing, and talking about.

With that in mind, I’m using this post as a chance to jump into two of the things that have been on my mind. They’re still related to my last couple of posts in that they tackle the communication of data as information, but they should be my last jump into these sorts of abstract topics. Having said that, I’m hoping that they’ll be relevant or useful for someone else out there, as well.

1. Most data is boring.

Data, minus story.

To anyone who has been involved in the messy process of gathering, cleaning, mining, or analyzing data, pointing out how the majority of data collected for any project is boring is about as controversial as saying that the sky is blue.

But I think this whole idea is true for more than just the niche world of data-based art/journalism. By way of example, I’m reminded of the idea of ritual in anthropology (I majored in anthropology, which is one of those subjects that no parent is ever excited to hear their child wants to study, so I relish any chance I get to prove the usefulness of the degree).

Anyway, rituals are quite important concepts in the —> Read More