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I contend that data-driven art is a joint between art and information technology. In my art research, I add to this joint a third piece, magical thinking. Then I use this framework to develop artwork on broad and specific themes, like violence and online hate speeches.
Starting from the ISO/IEC 2382:2015, I shaped a description of the terms data and information. Then I reflect on the historical roots of data-driven art and the implications of categorizing this kind of art. Three questions remain open for the future. Which kind of challenges does data pose to the idea of the medium? What could be the role of aesthetic pleasure in data-driven art? What could be the relationship between data-driven art and political and social context?
To work on a specific medium is not my high interest in art. However, I am aware that new kinds of media arise. This awareness triggers my research interest to inquire into some specific medium. That's also because these new kinds of media pose questions about the status of the media itself in art. I relate this key concept to the theme Encyclopedia of Irrational: Symbiotic Violence.
The data-driven art is a joint between art and information technology.
In my art research, I add to this joint a third piece, magical thinking. Then I use this framework to develop artwork on broad and specific themes, like violence and online hate speeches.
The concept of "data" involves the idea of "information".
Since we are speaking about technology, I refer to technical terminology provided by the "ISO/IEC 2382:2015 Information technology — Vocabulary". Thinking of these definitions [note 1], I shape two broad sense descriptions where information is a kind of knowledge about things and data is a way to represent information.
To frame our topic more, we can specify the use of the term "data".
The authors of "A Concise Taxonomy for Describing Data as an Art Material" [note 2], for example, "refer to digital (binary) data specifically: machine-readable (...)" [note 3]. The ISO/IEC 2382:2015 define "digital" as related to "data that consist of digits" [note 4]. We can say that we are talking of data represented by digits.
Indeed we use the term digital art.
However, the curator, professor Christiane Paul, states, "The terminology for technological art forms has always been extremely fluid and what is now known as digital art has undergone several name changes since it first emerged" [note 5]. According to Paul, we started to use first the term computer art, then, through other terminologies, we began to use the term new media art "at the end of the 20th century" [note 6]. Paul states that "digital art" and "new media art" are sometimes used with the same meaning [note 7]. However, according to Paul, going deep into the definition, things appear nowadays more complicated [note 8]. Apart from the fact that, as reported by Paul, that is already in use terms like post‐digital and post‐Internet connected with the idea of New Aesthetic [note 9].
Due to the use of the computer machine, data-driven art can see as part of computer art.
According to the art historian Kristine Stiles, we could say that computer art began in 1952 with Electronic Abstractions by Benjamin Francis Laposky [note 10]. However, in the frame of our topic, we have to notice that Laposky, in these works, did not use digital signals but analogues [note 11].
As mentioned by the artist Frank Dietrich the "first computer art exhibitions" were in 1965 [note 12]. Dietrich noticed that these first exhibitions were "held not by artists at all, but by scientists" [note 13].
From one side, it could appear reasonable to frame data-driven art under the historical category of computer art. However, framing an art form in a group mainly related to the tool used in the art process can be limited.
According to the research by the scholar Lisa OConnor, one can see data-driven art in the broader theme of the relationship between art and mathematics [note 14]. That's a fruitful point of view. Indeed mathematics is more than a technology (information technology) or a tool (computer machine). Furthermore, the relationship between art and mathematics has long roots, as OConnor noticed, at least with the research on the proportion of the human body [note 15]. Following other scholars, OConnor places the beginning of data-driven art in the 1990s [note 16]. OConnor defines data-driven art (in her words, data art, data driven art, or data inspired art) "math art that combines statistics, algorithms, and frequently computer programing to create art" [note 17]. OConnor defines the kind of data as statistical data "In modern American life a relatively new (20-30 years) raw material is data, large amounts of statistical data" [note 18].
We have to say that the use of information technology and computer machines in art, is a social and political choice nowadays, indeed not neutral due to the role of numbers in global issues. In that sense, data-driven art is a joint between art and information technology.
Indeed Paul states "The history and aesthetics of digital art obviously cannot be separated from its social and political context. The technological history of digital art is inextricably linked to the military‐industrial complex and research centers, as well as consumer culture and its associated technologies" [note 19].
The artist Jer Thorp stated, "The biggest failure of data art, in my opinion, is in neglecting to address the individual character of a data set" [note 20]. Furthermore, according to Thorp, data art and visualization are the same object [note 21]. Indeed OConnor, following other scholars, states that it is in use of the term data visualization art since it "grew out of data visualization" [note 22].
The idea of data visualization could bring a sensitive issue in the art field, the aestetich pleasure. Even at the beginning of computer art, Laposky wrote in 1953, "Science and art may sometimes be combined to produce visual effects of strange beauty" [note 23].
The idea of art as aesthetic pleasure appears limited, but the connection with data-driven art seems strong. In conclusion, at least three questions remain open for the future. Which kind of questions does data pose to the idea of the medium? What could be the role of aesthetic pleasure in data-driven art? What could be the relationship between data-driven art and political and social context?