Week 12: Data Friction and Infrastructural Globalisation

In this week’s blog entry, I’ll be talking about data friction and infrastructural globalisation.

What is Data Friction?

According to Edwards (2010), data friction refers to the effort that you expend to consolidate data into a coherent piece of information. The context that he had used this in was to gather readings from weather measuring instruments into a book that attempts to show the history of global weather and climate records.

The way that I think of data friction is of different data that isn’t easily put together, hence the friction when you do try to re-arrange them in a meaningful manner. I feel like this can relate to the reading A Hacker Manifesto by Wark (2004) where it says “To abstract is to construct a plane upon which otherwise different and unrelated matters may be brought into many possible relations”. Where to abstract may refer to the creation of information, data friction refers to the effort that we use to wrangle these different matters into something related.

This can be seen all the time in the publishing industry by authors of articles, research papers and pieces of work that involve turning data into a more digestible format. People who go out to gather and research a topic in order to write an article would need to piece together everything that they’ve found to make a complete article and this involve data friction.

One example of this can be seen in this article from Webdesigner Depot by Sara Vieira. The raw data that is the topic of this article, the markdown language, can be hard to digest if presented in a table. However, to present and explain the markdown language in an article like this helps the reader understand. To put the article together would  have involved some measure of data friction. Another example goes back to visualisation of data. In this graph which depicts colours in cultures and what they mean, there would have involved data friction to get everything into a graph as opposed to tables of data.

What is Infrastructural Globalisation?

Edwards (2010) refers to infrastructural globalisation as the way that “the building of technical systems for gathering global data helped to create global institutions and ways of thinking globally”. I interpreted infrastructural globalisation as the way that technology becomes a frame that the mind can use as a structure for thinking.

An obvious example of this would be the internet. The internet lays the foundation that gives us the ability to communicate and share information across the globe. It is with this infrastructure in place that we begin to re-think our place not only on a local scale, but on a global scale. Communities form that consist of members from different countries which exposes us to a variety of lifestyles and new knowledge. In this way internet, the underlying infrastructure, is what has allowed us to interact and think on a global scale.

Ways that we can apply infrastructural globalisation  to publishing could be the various news websites. Newspapers were previously very geographically focused and reported on news that were closer and more likely to affect the newsreaders. This was due to the medium (paper) and the industry practices (sending journalists out into the field in person), but compare this to news websites and we’ll find that not only has the content changed in form, but also in subject. Articles can be published online at any time, the use of emails means that authors no longer need to be in the same physical location as the publisher. News has also come to cover a larger scope, including local, national and world news, just take a look at ABC News.

Word: Aggregation



Edward, P N. (2010). Introduction. In: A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of global Warming. Cambridge: MIT Press. xiii-xvii.

Wark, M. (2004). Abstraction. In: A Hacket Manifesto. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. paragraphs 001-023.


Week 10: Importance and Impacts of Aggregation

The internet is ever-growing, with countless data and information being uploaded every minute. There are messages from your friends, photos from your relatives, articles from five magazines, news from four websites. How are we meant to keep track of it all?

The answer is through the use of aggregators.

Aggregators, as the name suggests, bring content and information together. This is a vital service in relation to the internet because of how vast it is. Aggregators allows us to keep track of things as well as showing us what we’re interested in.

But in a way, aggregators relates to the concepts of archives in that it is an archive of yourself. It can be seen as a form of expression because it’s made up of things that relate to you. A glance at someone’s feeds could tell you a bit about them, just as taking a glance at what magazines and hobbies someones has can.

Aggregators don’t only bring content together, it’s bringing content that you choose to follow, and so it is essentially an expression of yourself. There are different types of aggregators. There are the most obvious ones such as Netvibes, Google Reader (until July 1) and other RSS feeds. These services give allow you to subscribe to websites and shows you when there is new content.

Another type of aggregator are the social media websites such as twitter and facebook. Some other sites that can serve as aggregators are tumblr and reddit. They all bring in content from a range of sources and show it to the user in a relatively easy to digest way.

It reflects our society’s shift to a post-broadcast society, in that the information now revoles around the user and the user’s choice rather than a corporation deciding what the masses gets to see.

Word: Social body

Week 9: Visualisations

Here’s a question for you, which would you rather look at?

This picture or this table about Twitter?

The answer probably depends on why you’re looking at this image in the first place, but the image is easier to digest and puts things in perspective compared to the table of statistics. That is, this visualisation of data has helped to point things out in a way that is easier to understand than hard data alone.

Visualisation is about presenting data in a visual form in order to bring a certain aspect to our attention. It’s existed for quite a while, going back to 1854, and has evolved to bring us new things such as the Google Glass, but more on that later.

It’s existed for a long, long time in games through a heads up display (HUD) which tells the player information about their stats. This could be their health, mana, ammunition or progress through a certain level. All this is to tell the player important information that they could get at a glance.

But we have visualisations in aspects of our everyday life too. The weather forecasts using suns and rain icons could be said to be visualisations. The stockmarket charts that display the prices are also another one.

I feel like Google Glass is one way that HUDs can now be seen in our daily lives. The video on their site demonstrates a few ways that it can bring us real time information about stuff like weather and on screen gps.

Another way that visualisation has manifested is in the form of VJing, which is the act of remixing visual images, usually in sync to audio. Two VJs described themselves as content creators aiming to “blow peoples minds”. Their works typically use distortion of an image or video paired with audio to create new visual experiences that you can get lost in. They go on to talk about their VJing software and how it can work with the variables and waves created from a video file, allowing a range of effects to be achieved by syncing a certain element of a song to an aspect of the video.

I feel like VJ is currently only used as a creative or entertainment device to create things for enjoyment. However it also shows a new way of manipulating video data. There are new software and new tools being developed to work with and manipulate video in new ways which could open the doors to new methods of data visualisation. I feel like it’s certainly opening the door to a new area of visual experience, but it’s too early to see how far it can go.

Another example would be the work of AntiVJ who created Paleodictyon, a work that is featured on the roof of a curved building. I think this shows not only the ability to create a new experience out of something stable, but also shows the visual capabilities that we now possess.

We can go beyond models of the real and concrete into something that is more abstract and programmable. This visual technology could be used in areas such as criminology (by looking at crime-heavy areas and if they correlate with any circumstances or changes) or economics (how/if the jobs are changing from new influences). Visualisation can help us draw links between things that were not obvious to us beforehand as they’re presenting data in a new light.