Critical Data & Visualization

Data collection and algorithmic processing are not only central to recent technical breakthroughs such as in Artificial Intelligence and automation but have created new economic paradigms where data equals value and shape political approaches to power and control.

Decisions based on algorithms affect society at large whether it’s changing the way we transport and distribute goods, influencing the things we buy or the news we read. The world that algorithms see is data. For the average person, however, data is seldom more than an abstract idea.

So, what exactly is data? How is value extracted from it? And why should we care? How can we ethically balance the positive uses of data-driven systems with the threats they pose to discriminate and infringe basic human rights?

This course seeks to untangle some of these issues practically and theoretically.

The overarching goal of this course is for students to gain the tools and the comfort to think critically about the ways data is utilized in the ever-growing technological landscape we are immersed in.

With this in mind, the course is split in two weekly sessions: a theoretical class and a practical lab.

The classes include lectures introducing contemporary theorists, artists, groups, and in-class discussions or exercises. Four themes guiding this exploration are “Data & Data Infrastructures”, “Data Bias”, “Data Ethics” and “Power, Control, Access”.

In the weekly lab, students will learn the fundamentals of web-based data visualization using advanced JavaScript and, more specifically, the D3js library. The purpose of this is to understand what data feels like through hands-on experimentation and what data says or doesn’t say by rendering the information it carries visually.