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“Data as Art” Exhibit Shows Collaborative Art on Campus

The course’s final projects will be displayed from January 20 to February 20

Over the past few years, “big data” has become a ubiquitous term uttered by everyone from government officials to academics to entrepreneurs. It has the potential to be mined for endless information and has the ability to optimize our lives. At the McCormick School of Engineering, data is not only viewed as useful but also as aesthetically beautiful.

This fall, McCormick students paired with those from School of the Art Institute of Chicago to participate in a whole-brain experience. Co-taught by faculty from both schools and sponsored by the Barry and Mary Ann MacLean Fund for Art & Engineering, the “Data as Art” class challenged students to translate big data into visual art and design.

The course’s final projects will be on display from Tuesday, January 20 until Friday, February 20 in the atrium of the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center. An opening reception with refreshments will take place at 5:30 p.m. on January 20.

Working over six weeks, four interdisciplinary student teams created visual representations of four subjects.

  • [View history] visually reveals the evolution of Wikipedia’s global warming entry and examines Wikipedia’s attempt to neutrally define a phenomenon that is continually debated. The installation exposes the chronological development of the content in the article, the information that has been deleted from public knowledge, and the debates among individuals editing the article.
  • Rendered Ghosts presents the movements of residents of a hypothetical ghost town of abandoned homes. The installation attempts to envision the recent history and ongoing social and political effects of the foreclosure crisis as it continues to impact individuals in Chicago.
  • Un*spoken is an interactive installation that explores the similarities and differences between laughter and crying—two vastly different yet parallel responses. By translating a database of such sounds into music that can be played back through a music box, the piece allows the audience to come up with their own conclusions and comparisons.
  • Wikitropolis investigates the link-system architecture of Wikipedia as articulated by the metaphor of a metropolis. The project takes form of Wikipedia articles for five major cities—Chicago, London, New York, Paris, and Tokyo—with only the links within the entries visible, displayed as three-dimensional structures.