Persona Non Data
Can we really capture the essence of our daily lives through data?
A new installation by Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico in collaboration with Dr Mark Coté, was commissioned by King’s College London for the Big Bang Data exhibition at Somerset House.
The title of the work, Persona Non Data, is both a play on the Latin phrase ‘persona non grata,’ and the literal Italian translation, ‘a person who does not give themselves’. The work was created by Italian artists Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico (AOS Art is Open Source) in collaboration with Dr Mark Coté from the Digital Culture and Society programme at King’s.
Whether we realise it or not, we are now subject to pervasive processes that capture endless amounts of data in effective, beautiful, but also frightening ways. For almost everything we do – both online and offline – there are algorithms that recognise our faces, gestures, and actions and classify us according to the patterns of the things we do or like. But how do they understand our identities, cultures, orientations, and the irony, humour, and all of the complex emotions and behaviours of our daily lives?
In Persona Non Data visitors had the opportunity to explore how private and complex their personal data actually is. Using the latest facial recognition software, the installation showed to visitors the abundance of data their visit creates, and gave them the opportunity to decide if they wanted to release their data into the exhibition and thus visualised as part of the art work.
The installation used the existing CCTV cameras as well as all the social networking and wifi activity in the exhibition spaces to capture people’s movements, faces and behaviour. By using that information, it was possible for algorithms to make assumptions about who is who, and what they were thinking, doing, writing, communicating, and who they were connecting with – just as social network operators, security agencies, insurance brokers, marketers and advertisers, and other companies all over the world. The data was visualised in the exhibition in real-time so that visitors saw exactly what they were generating and how its interpretation affected their privacy, and impacted their social, personal, professional and political life. At the same time, the visitor may have wondered if one can be fully represented and understood through data only.
Find out more about the project in this legacy film.
Persona Non Data was introduced to the exhibition to celebrate the extension of Big Bang Data, which ran until 20 March 2016. The art work was on show from 4 February and Iaconesi and Persico took part in various talks and workshops on 4 and 6 February as part of the exhibition programme. More details are available here and below.
Panel discussion: Persona non Data: opening up data in public spaces
Thursday 4 February, 19.00-20.00
Artists Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico and Dr Mark Coté of King’s College London discussed the concepts, implications and possibilities of the Persona non Data installation.
Public workshop: Becoming a “persona non data”?
Saturday 6 February, 12.00-15.00
Participants discovered the technologies, data sources and processes behind the installation, explored the data it captures, played with it and created new usage scenarios. We collectively imagined and explored new forms of social interaction that becme possible when the data we produced became accessible as a cultural resource.
Artist talk: Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico
Saturday 6 February, 15.30-16.30
Persona non Data Artists Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico interactively explored the critical, theoretical, social and political aspects of Persona non Data, and evaluated findings from the day’s workshop.
Persona Non Data, by artists Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico, is a collaboration between the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London and Somerset House Trust, brokered and commissioned by the Cultural Institute at King’s for the Big Bang Data exhibition at Somerset House.
Concept and realisation: Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico (AOS, Art is Open Source) in collaboration with Dr Mark Coté
Technology: Human Ecosystems
More info about the project is available here.