Day 1 Saturday 9 June

After 24 hours of travelling, we arrive in Sydney! We are staying at a really lovely family home in the trendy Balmain, found through a site called Air BnB

Having taken the ferry across the harbour and taking in the first sights of the Oprah House, day 1 was spent at the Museum of Contemporary Art for a programme of talks that are part of the Vivid Festival 

The first talk of the day was ‘Mapping Culture – Fee Plumley, Kate Chapman, Brenda L Croft & Cheryl L’Hirondelle’

Fee Plumley hosted the panel that explored the notion of mapping culture and presented three different female presenters engaged in different approaches to mapping.

Kate Chapman shared her international work around Open Street Map an open source, wiki based international mapping project where the creators work with local communities to map local emergency amenities and facilities to assist with disaster planning. She raised some really interesting issues relating to trying to creating recognizable symbols and icons that would work on maps and be understood internationally. The upshot being its really very difficult as there are so many different images and understandings across different cultures. Thus the importance to work locally and empower the local communities to make, update and upkeep the map, giving them ownership. ‘Giving maps back to everyone’ is a key mission of the project.

Cheryl L’Hirondelle talked about her sonic, song based approach to mapping the homeless culture she experienced in Vancouver. The project was called Vancouver Song Lines and an online element in terms of an interactive website and a live element – where she paid participants (who were homeless) to hear her sing.

This was a ‘life time project’ a term coined by Brenda L Croft is a Gurindji/Malngin/Mudpurra artist whose practice is engaged with exploring Aboriginal heritage in contemporary Australia. She talked passionately about her projects that involved her family as collaborators and participants.

The Aboriginal Heritage was a key theme to run throughout the day, with a fantastic live performance at Carraigeworks where the launch of ISEA featured a welcome ceremony that established the cultural protocols required for being on Aboriginal land.  The strength of law, ritual and customs were enacted in a corroberee of custodians to the greater Sydney region and Torres Strait Islander visitors.

Next up was Genevieve Bell, an Australian anthropologist and researcher and the director of Intel Corporation‘s Interaction and Experience Research. Her talk was an inspiring and informative exploration and unpacking of the phrase Big Data and how data is only made interesting by the stories that contextualize it. Having asked us to accept that Data can be something with needs, she laid out 10 top things it would want, with quirky and witty titles…

  • Data keeps it Real – that not all data is digital and does not need to be. That Data can function best when physical.
  • Data loves a good relationship – that when viewed in isolation. a data set can be difficult to understand.
  • Data would like a better network than it currently has. The current network being generally unstable and the quality is not always dependable. The variation of both of these factors varying widely from country to country.
  • Data is feral – or would like to be. Data produces data which will produce more data that might want to break free of imposed constraints and reproduce of its own accord.
  • Data has responsibilities – that certain data is ‘deeply inside social obligations’ and bears the weight of having to be used appropriately, within the context of justice and honor.
  • Data keeps it messy – that data implies a sense of order that may be misleading (she name checked Lee Star here)
  • Data likes to look good – that data can be one of two things – what we are doing and what we would like people to think we are doing. Often these two things are not the same.
  • Data does not last forever – more and more apps and tools are coming onto the market such as Snap Chat – that only last for a limited period of time and creates and then destroys data once the experience has been had and its usefulness is over. Disintegration of data.
  • There is always new data – through the rapid rise of both people and civic infrastructure (traffic lights, cameras etc) in everyday life, new data is constantly being produced.

Highlighting an important issue around the perception that if you have more data you have more truth, Bell questioned what was so compelling about this idea of a single monolithic truth with a capital T. Truth that has a perception of being stable, controllable and regulateable, when there has been over 40 years of social humanity research that has unpacked this truth and come to the conclusion that there are many truths.

She talked about the way organisations and governments are trying to make sense of big data sets using algorithms that embed assumptions about collated data that can mask true readings.

The final talk of the day by Paolo Cirio Alessandro Ludovico was simply put, amazing. They talked about their ‘hack trilogy’ of projects, Face to Facebook, Google will eat itself and Amazon (Amazon Noir)