Commissioned Text

Data Undermining

The Work of Networked Art in an Age of Imperceptibility

August 2009

Supported by National Endowment for the Arts

The large quantities of data now being generated via networked communications are also being managed, regulated and interpreted into patterns that are comprehensible to humans. The management of data is undertaken by sophisticated sampling, tracking and automated techniques and the results of these are frequently sequestered to become the property of corporations and institutions such as Google or the US military. Even when data flows “freely” through the net, the operations of search engines, databases, digests and feeds such as RSS increasingly makes this manipulation of data invisible. Techniques such as aggregation smooth out the differentials of data’s constitution and present us instead with a flattened landscape of information.

The sources, processes and contexts, which make information meaningful, are rendered imperceptible. How have networked artistic practices responded to this emerging terrain of the imperceptible conditions for the generation of data? This chapter will examine the work of online and offline networked art practices that seek to undermine the broader flow of data toward a general cultural state of imperceptibility.

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