Hack days or ‘hackathons’ are events that bring together people from diverse backgrounds to create something new for a short space of time. They are essentially creative events designed to create new projects that aim to solve common or shared problems. This is the model of the City Data Slam. What set this event apart from your average hackathon was its focus on tackling the challenge of communicating sustainability via the arts. City Data Slam is a key component of the City of Sydney and Carbon Arts’ project ‘Sensing Sydney: communicating sustainability through the arts, open data and public space’. The Sensing Sydney project explored different pathways for creative use of data and technology to engage the public in an active dialogue on environmental issues and citizenengaged action, and culminated in a public art commission produced as part of Art & About Sydney in September – October 2013.
Data representation, an emerging new medium for artistic expression, has the potential to fundamentally challenge the way we view, and interact with, the world around us. Data providers such as the City of Sydney, The Climate Institute, the Museum of Contemporary Art and Buildings Alive came together to provide data for invited Australian and international digital artists to use as creative material. The Data Slam coincided with ISEA2013 (the International Symposium on Electronic Art), as well as the announcement of the winner of a new public art commission for Sensing Sydney.
UK-based artist and entrepreneur Usman Haque, creator of the Xively open data platform and advisor to the Sensing Sydney project was invited to be the Data Slam facilitator. For Haque, it’s not just about making the data public, it’s about engaging the public in making the data, as this leads to a greater sense of engagement and responsibility for what’s being measured. The wealth of strategies deployed by artists during the Slam – from citizen science to speculative design and exploratory data visualisation – brings fresh perspective to engage stakeholders in the journey towards sustainable urban living in Sydney and globally.
The publication CITY DATA SLAM REPORT (carbonarts.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/CITY_DATA_SLAM_REPORT_web2_lr.pdf) presents the results of the City Data Slam drawing on materials gathered and developed during the three-day event, including interviews, articles and recordings prepared by Jason McDermott, Thomas Bristow and Zacha Rosen. A post-event evaluation survey sent to all event participants feeds into an evaluation of the project, and recommendations for next steps, in particular a call for the City Data Slam to become a regular event in the City’s calendar. This is one of two publications reporting back on the experience of the Sensing Sydney project. The second publication focuses on the winning Sensing Sydney public art commission, Building Run, by artist Keith Deverell. Together these publications seek to assist the City of Sydney in understanding the outcomes of the project, and guide in the development of similar initiatives of this nature.
- Jodi Newcombe is the Director of Carbon Arts.