Data is political

Stay tuned -> Book publication forthcoming in 2013

Data As Place will be presented at Sensuous Knowledge in January 2013. The project proposes future uses for the physical architecture of data storage soon to obsolete and investigates the geopolitics of data by leveraging crowdsourcing on the web to create a working map of data centers on a global scale.

Raw video stream -> March 2012 Norway

A symposium on art, design, and the politics of information. Designers, artists, scientists discuss the aesthetic, ethical and spatial dimensions of information and its relation to power, the production of knowledge, and construction of urban spaces.

Organized by Amber Frid-Jimenez and Ben Dalton

Hosted by Kunstøgskolen i Bergen / Bergen National Academy of Art & Design (KHiB) in collaboration with the Jan van Eyck Academie, and the University of Bergen with support from the Verdikt programme of the Norges Forskningsråd, KHIB Research Council, and KHIB Departments of Design and Fine Art.

Date & Location

  • 15 March 2012
  • 10:00 to 18:00
  • Bergen Bibliotek /
    Bergen Public Library
  • Main Auditorium
  • Strømgaten 6
  • 5015 Bergen
  • Norway


The symposium is accompanied by a growing archive of recorded conversations with artists, designers, and scientists including contributions from:

  • Ron Burnett
  • Amanda Cox
  • Philip DeCamp
  • Benjamin Mako Hill
  • Francis Irving
  • Marcell Mars
  • Dietmar Offenhuber
  • Casey Reas
  • Florian Schneider
  • Fernanda Viegas & Martin Wattenberg
  • Usman Haque
  • Jose Luis de Vicente
  • Jeff Warren


Radical increases in computing power and speed together with the rhetoric of openness and organizational transparency have led to a desire to read, visualize and make sense of vast and expanding archives of digital information from financial data and government documents to global sporting events and personal video collections.

Corporations storing unprecedented archives of data on their servers have called on artists and designer to lead efforts to visualize this information, producing new opportunities for designers to use their skills on problems of seductive complexity. Often such initiatives are framed as promoting the public good. But the act of storing, structuring, manipulating, visualizing and distributing can both reveal and conceal the underlying structures and global networks to which the data refers. Far from value neutral, the act of visualizing information occurs within a complex and contentious field of competing agendas. Simply put, data is political.

Over the past fifty years, artists and designers have developed tactics that explore, remix and interrogate cultural archives as products of carefully constructed, state controlled systems of knowledge. Artists and politicians understand the value of these knowledge productions and use them as opportunities to challenge the organization of– the rules of access to– and methods of distribution of this cultural data.

This symposium brings together artists, designers, scientists and theorists who have developed critical practices related to information and the politics that they produce. The symposium asks: How does the scale of expanding databases affect the creative practices of artists and designers working within public or private sectors? What strategies do designers and artists use to negotiate the competing aims of agencies with a stake in the information that is represented?


Philippe Rekacewicz is a geographer, cartographer and journalist. He works regularly for Le Monde diplomatique, an international French magazine published in 70 international editions in 26 languages. Since 1999 he participates in diverse artistic projects in Germany, Spain, Norway and France including Fareed Armaly’s project From/To at the Witte de With, Rotterdam and at Documenta11. In 2004 he participated as the editor of the Atlas of Globalization (Paris: Le Monde Diplomatique, 2003) at the 3rd Berlin Biennale of contemporary art.

From 1996 to 2006, he was the head of the Department of Cartography in a sub department of the United Nations in Norway in the framework of their environmental program (PNUE/GRID-Arendal). His main interest is the relationships between cartography and art, and between science and politics. He focuses particularly on the role of art in the production of maps and how this influences the political use of maps as a propaganda tool.

Peter Sunde is a hacktivist and entrepreneur whose projects often explore questions of immaterial rights, copying and digital culture. He is best know as a co-founder and former spokesperson for The Pirate Bay, one of the largest file sharing directories in the world. Sunde has been a contributor to the Piratbyrån (Swedish Pirate Bureau think tank) and supporter of the wider pirate-party and kopimi movements globally. He has more recently been involved in the founding of the social micro-payment tipping service Flattr, the digital receipt management service Kvittar and the Ipredator VPN. These engage with issues of democratically rewarding creativity in digital networks, reducing environmental waste and net neutrality respectively. Sunde is currently facing fines of millions in damages and time in prison as one of four connected to Pirate Bay who were sentenced in a case brought against them by a number of large entertainment industry companies. Sunde travels regularly to speak and present his work at conferences, debates and lectures. He is of Finnish and Norwegian heritage and lives in Berlin, Germany.

Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas conduct artistic research that explores the reclamation of public culture in the face of overwhelming privatization. Often beginning with archival research, they have developed complex participatory works investigating architecture and the urban environment, and cultural and technological heritage. In parallel to their studies at the Art Academy of Vilnius in the nineties they founded an independent art program Jutempus which centres on the interfaces between social and artistic practice and enquires after the position of contemporary art in (post-Soviet) society.

In 2005, they initiated the Pro-Test Lab, a project abolishing the borders between art, protest and civil commitment. Beginning as a case study of the destruction of the cinema theatre it has developed into a space and an archive of various forms of protest (and legal proceedings) against the corporate privatization of public space. Their work has been exhibited at Documenta11 in Kassel, MACBA in Barcelona and the Ludwig Museum in Budapest. In 2007 they were the Lithuanian Pavilion artists at the 52nd Biennial in Venice.

Max Van Kleek is a designer and web scientist creating semantic web technologies that enable free access to personal information and ways to interact with it. Currently Van Kleek is a post-doctoral researcher at the Advanced Knowledge Technologies Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration at the University of Southampton with Sir Tim Berners-Lee and others. Van Kleek holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (MIT CSAIL) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he focused his research on information access, analysis, management, and distribution in the Haystack Group, with a focus on artificial intelligence algorithms for personal information visualisation and user modeling. Prior to MIT CSAIL he worked at the MIT Media Lab, doing interaction design under John Maeda in the Aesthetics and Computation Group, where he helped develop Atmosphere for the Workspheres exhibit for the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 2001. Van Kleek grew up in Tokyo, Japan and his family hails from Boise, Idaho.

Daniel van der Velden is a graphic designer and writer. Together with Vinca Kruk he founded Metahaven, a studio for design and research.

Metahaven’s work—both commissioned and self-directed—reflects political and social issues in provocative graphic design objects. Metahaven authored Uncorporate Identity, a book on politics and visual identity, published by Lars Müller in 2010. Solo exhibitions include Affiche Frontière (CAPC musée d’art contemporaine Bordeaux, 2008) and Stadtstaat (Künstlerhaus Stuttgart/Casco, 2009). Group exhibitions include Forms of Inquiry (AA London, 2007), Manifesta8 (Murcia, 2010), the Gwangju Design Biennale 2011 (Gwangju, Korea), the Athens Biennial (Athens, 2011) and Graphic Design: Now In Production (Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2011).

Daniel is a Senior Critic in the Graphic Design MFA program at Yale University. He is a tutor at the design department of the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam and lectured at the University of Amsterdam School of Media Studies. In 2011, Metahaven was selected by Rolling Stone Italia as one of the world’s 20 most promising design studios.

Metahaven’s forthcoming book is Black Transparency, scheduled for release with Actar in Spring 2012.

Ben Dalton is a computational design and new technology researcher based in the Faculty of Arts, Environment & Technology at Leeds Metropolitan University, UK. He is the director of the Experimental Media Unit, a Principal Lecturer in the faculty and visiting Professor at the Bergen National Academy of the Arts, Norway. He has a background in ubiquitous computing and mobile sensor networks from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Media Lab, and has conducted research in the Århus University Electron-Molecular Interaction group, University of Leeds Spintronics and Magnetic Nanostructures lab and Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, Camden. Ben’s work includes EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, UK) funded research projects in to visualising pedestrian usage patterns in interactive urban spaces and wearable computing sensors for ubiquitous computing applications, Hewlett-Packard funded development of a GPS music city archive app presented at the FACT gallery Liverpool and the ICA gallery London, and arts funding including ARTiMELT, an Arts Council England supported residency.

Amber Frid-Jimenez is an artist and designer whose recent research explores the role of design and technology in the formation and disintegration of communities under unstable conditions. Her work investigates the cultural mechanics of the network through experimental platforms and visual systems. Frid-Jimenez is an associate professor at the National Academy of the Arts in Bergen, Norway, a researcher at the Jan Van Eyck Academie in the Netherlands, an affiliate artist at the MIT Program for Art, Culture and Technology and an affiliate researcher at Emily Carr University in Vancouver, Canada. Frid-Jimenez has presented her projects and research internationally at venues including Maison Européenne de la Photographie (Paris, France), A Foundation (Liverpool, UK), Banff New Media Institute (Alberta, Canada), Cornell University, Harvard University, Smithsonian Institution, Time Warner, Toshiba Research & Development Lab (Tokyo), American Institute of Graphic Arts, and at independent venues such as Art Interactive (Cambridge, MA), Upgrade! International (online), and DFN Gallery (New York). She recently co-directed symposia at the intersection of design, technology and contemporary art with Ute Meta Bauer at MIT. Frid-Jimenez directed gestural design research at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she also taught in the Digital+Media Program. Frid-Jimenez studied with John Maeda in the Physical Language Workshop at the MIT Media Laboratory. Prior to her degree, she designed information visualization systems for the MIT Cognitive Machines Group. Frid-Jimenez has a background in fine art and philosophy.

Jill Walker Rettberg is Professor of Digital Culture at the University of Bergen, where she researches and teaches social media narratives, electronic literature and digital art. She is the author of “Blogging” (Polity Press, 2008) and co-editor of Digital Play, Culture and Identity: The World of Warcraft Reader (MIT Press, 2008), and has been blogging for twelve years at


  • Thursday 15 March 2012
  • 10:00 Welcome by Amber Frid-Jimenez & Ben Dalton
  • Session One
  • 10:30 Philippe Rekacewicz
  • 11:15 Steve Dixon
  • 11:30 Open discussion
  • 12:00 Lunch
  • Session Two
  • 1:30 Gediminas Urbonas
  • 2:00 Nomeda Urbonas
  • 2:30 Open discussion
  • 3:00 Break
  • Session Three
  • 3:15 Peter Sunde
  • 4:00 Daniel van der Velden
  • 4:45 Panel discussion with Max Van Kleek & Jill Walker Rettberg
  • 6:00 Reception at rom8 in conjunction with “On Balancing”, an exhibition by Ellen Røed and Christian Blom


  • Friday 16 March 2012 (Parallel sessions)
  • Design Workshop
  • 10 – 16:00 Workshop (the Red Room) hosted by the Design Department with Max Van Kleek, Steven Chodoriwsky, Michelle Teran, Ben Dalton, Amber Frid-Jimenez
  • Academy studio visits
  • 10 – 17:00 Studio visits at the Academy with Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas