The Art of Environmental Data. The Internet of Things
Visualisations and sonifications of the real time city.
In 2004 I layered the city with sensors for my Sensity projects. Dozens of them to access the “data” and make it public. I wanted to claim this space as a public domain, and to create a series of social sculptures affected in real time by the changes in the city.
The aim is to make smart networks that have data open to all, and not closed off spy surveillance oriented systems. These networks could be thought of as open social sculptures that inform the world and create new meaningful experiences.
Thousands of motes could be deployed across the city for gathering data in wireless sensor networks. Used in large numbers they communicate with one another via radio signals across the network. They can reconfigure themselves, so that the network stays stable. The data is funnelled through a system to a point where it can then be interpreted.
The motes monitor the the environment for changes in temperature, sounds, light, position, acceleration, vibration, stress, weight, pressure, humidity, and gps. Motes and sensor boards monitor the micro incidents of change in the city, the noise, traffic flows and people flows. The interactions of all this data, controlled via mixed up interfaces that can re-form and re-contextualise experiences in real time as social sculpture.
The Control Space.
Imagine walking out the door, and knowing every single action, movement, sound, micro movement, pulse, and thread of information is being tracked, monitored, stored, analysed, interpreted, and logged. The world we will live in seems to be a much bigger brother, than first realised. Its the mother of big brother. Its a world full of data that can help understand the fundamentals of our outside environment, and monitor the micro codes of our DNA, a world where we are liberated and empowered by data, where finally all of the technology becomes more than gimmick and starts to actually work for us. This is where these projects and artworks start. In addition to this, the artwork allude to a more socially engaged practise, based on critical reflection of notions of privacy, surveillance space, and control space, speculating on the interactive city and meaning of real time space.
Towards The Emergent City
The “Sensity” artworks were made from the data that is collected from urban environment locations. The networks of sensors collected data, which is then published online. The sensors interpret the micro-data of the interactive city. The output from the sensors displays the “emotional” state of the city online and the information is used to create installations and sculptural artifacts. I believe them to be in effect emergent social sculptures visualizing the emotional state of the city. The sensor network can be moved from urban to rural setting and different types of visualization can be made depending on the environment.
Sensity is also a highly technical project that can output vast amounts of information about the fabric of our cities. By embedding the sensors like this we can re-engage with the urban fabric and waeve new artistic metaphors within city space. Custom made software enables these sensors to communicate will one another in a network over a proxy server in real time. The data is also available for others and can be used to create visualizations in the open source environment that is online. (see xml streams).
Representations of these datasets allows unique understanding of the urban environment from this real time perspective. The interactions of all this data, controlled via interfaces that can re-form and re-contextualize experiences in real time. Sensity becomes a holistic city system. The sense city is a city of, accumulated incidents of love, abuse and death. The micro incidents of change in the weather, the noise traffic flows and people flows. Sensity leverages the real time data city and represents it online showing the life of the system and the emergering changing bahaviours of the space.
The data is the Medium.
In artworks such as Sensity, Facade, House, Sonicity, Capacities etc I connect up networks of real time information flows. The shared data space can overlap and there is a new space the space in between that only two nodes share. I have merged collected data from various cities and created an aestheticization of the shared city space.
I now believe there is a new social space that exists in between these independent networks. Future cities will be merged into real time connected up data cities. A connection of networks of real time information flows. The results created lead to mashed up cities and real time performative city experiences.
These systems re–employ our perception creating new understanding of how this mixed city behaviour unfolds. There is an opportunity to influence this process and the system and we can also create variables into the networks that will allow greater understanding of the data and the resulting information. Data has become the medium of the age.
A City of Sculptures
In one of my experiments “Capacities” I have made a new city of ‘sculptures’ re-presenting real time spaces and data environments. I investigated the loop from the real to the virtual and back to the real space. This notion of playing or manipulating with a malleable form (data) is made possible as each stream, each node, each sensor, or even the entire network can be communicated with using XML online gateways. The project was instigated by setting up my own wireless sensors networks across London to collect environmental data which was then published online in real time for an extended period of time. The output from the sensors display an interpretation of the real time city online, while that same information was evaluated and then re-visualized in the creation of numerous artworks, back in the public domain. The resulting artworks represent the real time conditions of the city.
The artistic aim is create new meaningful experiences allowing critical reflection on the real time city and the social political undercurrent embedded in the search for the real time city. This allows for a greater community of interpreters and beneficiaries to see, and to come to their own understandings arising from this data about our socially-networked environment. ..stanza 2010