‘Data as Culture’ is reflective of our time.

The first public work I initiated, just 12 days into my new role (and on Ada Lovelace day), was a call for data-driven artwork that would sit in our new Shoreditch office.

That we received over 80 submissions in 2 weeks from over 20 countries was an amazing display of the emerging global consciousness.

As nations, organisations, and individuals from around the world embrace and release more and more open (addressable, structured, accountable, continuous) data, we can see that we are at the beginning of a new web - much as people asked in the early 90s “why should I have a website?”, today’s question is “why should I have open data?”. The answers are as difficult to enumerate, but no less profound.

In an age of data-driven decision-making, we are led to believe that data represents truth. Simultaneously our collective data shadows are revealing, in real-time, details about our personal lives, social groups, corporate interactions, and civic society.

Combined, these trends open many, many questions: whose data are we trusting? Who wrote the algorithm? Who wrote the code? What are the unexpected consequences of combining different data? If our personal, business, and political decisions are shaped by these data, is there dogma in the code?

Equally, our maker culture is re-emerging, as evidenced not only in events around the world, but in the art commissions themselves: only one of the nine works is screen-based. This concept of the web ‘breaking through the glass’ and becoming part of our physical world could not be more timely, and significant, to the work of the Open Data Institute: to catalyse the evolution of an open data culture that creates economic, environmental, and social value.

I would like to thank MzTEK for creating and running the commission, all those who submitted, and those who were successful: we will draw inspiration from your work. It is truly world-class.

Gavin Starks BSc MMus FRSA


November 2012