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?