Big Bang Data, Big Bank Data


Last week I got chance to visit the Big Bang Data exhibition at the Embankment Galleries in Somerset House. It was great. You should go.


The exhibition explains the size, weight, shape, complexity and reality of data.

Timo Arnall’s Internet Machine film greets you as you enter. A floor to ceiling three projector fired video of a Telefonica data centre.  A look inside the physical home and engine room of the cloud. I did enjoy it because I am a data centre nerd but I must admit that I kept wondering why Telefonica had not implemented hot/cold aisle containment.

Next up was Ryoji ikeda’s Datatron which I loved. Pitch black room and a stark but mesmorising ceiling high visualisation of brilliance. IMG_20151210_145815

I spent a long time watching it on loop then try to take selfie’s (which are encouraged) in front of it with my rubbish Doogee X5 camera.

Then it is into the main exhibition space which features lots of individual pieces of work by very smart people some of which I have had the pleasure to meet.

It was great to see Stephanie Posavec and Giorgia Lupi Dear Data project in real life. A ‘year-long, analog data drawing project’ i.e. a weekly set of personal data visualised by the artists and then posted to each other as they lived on opposite sides of the world UK & West Coast of the US. as well as the cards you can see the test drawings and working out.

Dan Williams and Nat Buckley have been investigated the cabling and network infrastructure of London. Producing a crazy wall of photographs, notes, sketches and more to show the infrastructure under our feet and above our heads. The HFT in my backyard piece referenced below is well worth a read.


There is much, much more such as data storage mechanisams from punch cards to DNA, cross sections of undersea cables, maps of those cables and a global map of key data centres (not many banks though), David Mccandless’ Debtris,  James Bridle’s Where the fuck was I book and a great visualisation of redacted material, and to end the show a vending machine that dispensed a packet of crisps when a word related to recession and the credit crisis was tweeted. I waited quite a while to no avail.

I wonder what non-data nerds make of this exhibition I can imagine it opens quite a few eyes to what is done with our data and how it used, carried and manipulated. Go.



It also made me think about something I have long wanted to do with banking data. I would love to see a follow up to this called Big Bank Data that just focused on the Financial Services industry. They are as mysterious and as opaquely branded as the cloud.

It was touched on in this exhibit with references to the credit crisis and HFT etc. I am sure there is more about the size and scale of banks. Imagine a realtime visualisation of payments traversing the globe? Stock exchange traffic? Real HFT visualisations? Data from the countless cyberthreats banks have to deal with every minute of the day? the wax and wane of global real estate owned by banks for their branches, the number of banks today vs 10 years ago, what exactly are these legacy technologies banks run on? If they are public utilities should it not be public? How about delving into the links to governments.

I would love to get some massive bank data sets and hand them over to the artists involved in this exhibition. What stories would they tell? What insights would they glean? That would cause a Big Bang.

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