6 min read

40. Imagination

Data and AI, origin stories, content design and accessibility
 “what would your dream world be” “sci-fi, fantasy, live mythical and stuff because yeah why not” “chaotic in a good way”
Examples from Baltic Gallery outreach exercise—comments from teens about the future were translated into posters

I celebrated my birthday this month. I had a week off and stayed local, which meant I was able to explore local spas and art installations (such as the Baltic's local community outreach work on imagining the future). It also meant that I had a chance to read books both at home and even at the spa with friends.

I was on a data visualisation binge and so revisited David McCandles’ 2009 Visual Miscellany for the first time since it came out (or at least when I had been avidly following the blog). What struck me more than anything from the book was how the late 2000s was a simpler time with hope for technology and hand-created visualisations. As part of this, I looked back at things I'd been writing about online back at the time, found out that infosthetics is no longer a thing (RIP), however Information Is Beautiful is still going strong and in fact has a London live show Tuesday 25 June and some online sessions!) In comparison, Data Action was released in 2022 and far more of this time, for example being at pains to highlight the power involved in making maps and how participants should be involved in the making of the work. As it turned out I was familiar with not only the classic examples (cholera map, tube map and so on) but also many of the newer ones (how online self-reporting of potholes skews to the privileged I believe was one), it has new-to-me examples of data journalism such as mapping air pollution in China before the 2008 Olympics.

A few other books related to imagination and collective action. The core conceit of Jon Alexander’s Citizens is that for centuries people were thought of as subjects, then recently consumers, but that we should be aiming to be citizens. The most interesting part for me was hearing about how Taiwan got to be where it was—not only were there democracy hackers like Audrey Tang, but the government also listened to them. (Speaking of which, Tang and others have an open source book called Plurality). Also related was David Delmar Senties’ What We Build With Power and the need to organise (and, in links rather than books, Sarah Fathallah’s Every Space is Political and Haley Fitzpatrick, Tobias Luthe, and Birger Sevaldson’s methodological pluralism in practice with a great diagram).

I also loved the Othering and Belonging Institute’s Transformative Research Toolkit and in particular the work on archival research as related to participatory action research (namely that it can be useful in countering myths of objectivity but also requires criticality as information may be missing). See also: Stanford’s resources for digital humanities.

This month in digital government and design

I'm not sure if a lot has happened this month or that I've just been catching up on links…