By Tom Goldthorpe The Gravity rabble have been out on another evening excursion, this time to the Big Bang Data exhibition at Somerse...

Gravity @ Big Bang Data

By Tom Goldthorpe

The Gravity rabble have been out on another evening excursion, this time to the Big Bang Data exhibition at Somerset House.

The team clamoured for tickets when they were offered and I’m confident that this is due to a shared love of analytics, data segmentation and the inherent joys of reporting, rather than the fact that the exhibition closed at 6 necessitating an early finish.

Arriving at the exhibition we were first led through a series of installations aimed at raising awareness of ones digital footprint. It’s easy when imagining cloud data to think of an invisible, intangible virtual realm of information, but Timo Arnall’s The Machine displayed the less fluffy side of cloud based computing. Every meme, tweet and online tax return posted onto the net has to be stored on a server somewhere and this short film took viewers through a labyrinth of stacks where such information is hosted.

With a global output of 2.5 trillion bytes of data per day, the resources required to keep these server banks operating add up and almost makes the cat gif you laughed at on the bus to work seem like a rather trivial waste of planetary resources.

So how safe is this data? Whilst the server farms themselves have Fort Knox style security, should anyone attempt to trek into the Arizona desert and attempt to rob one, the data’s journey to the farm itself is rather less secure.

Julian Oliver’s work entitled TheTransparency grenade was created to demonstrate the terrifying amount of data that could be syphoned from unsuspecting mobile users connecting to an insecure wifi network. This automated device extracts unencrypted information whilst participants browsed the web, saving to an external server to be mined for important or sensitive information at a later date. A rather real and terrifying threat considering the plethora of free wifi networks now available in every shop, cafe and street corner.

But it wasn't just the data streaming from our devices that was being tracked and mapped, the notion of security and social surveillance was explored by several installation artists looking to examine the privacy issues a connected world presents. Zach Blas’ Face Cages were comprised of thin wire masks that when worn disrupt facial recognition technology enabling the wearer to wander at will without a database being able to track these movements remotely.

The most disturbing piece on display however was surely Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s Stranger visions. These photorealistic 3D printed masks were created using strands of found DNA to recreate the potential face of their original progenitor. A distressing reminder of how much personal and private information we accidentally leave in our wake as we wander through life.

Big Bang Data is on at Somerset House until the 20th March.

More here.

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