Data, Space and People

As part of the Big Bang Data exhibition, Ingrid Burrington and Dan Williams created a map that shows the overlooked elements of the Internet that can be physically found in London as for antennae or cabinets. They have tracked down a small area close to Somerset House, exactly where the exhibition takes place.


It is interesting to see how virtual space still needs real and concrete infrastructures in order to function. In fact, Burrington and Williams investigate the importance of the “place in history, authenticity, ties to place of exhibition”. (pg.23, Miller, 2011)

This is a starting point that could help architects, designers, tactical urbanists and creative technologies to collaborate in order to “design and built technological tools to support citizen empowerment and high-impact engagement in cities”. (Haque, 2016) The basic notion of maps is still central to the everyday life in a smart city (Google Maps and compass on smart phones to name the most famous ones) as much as it was before with paper maps.

Moreover, two artists Thomson and Graighead created a wall full of tweets sent via Twitter during two specific weeks near the Somerset House area. The idea is the one of a collaborative wall that – as they say – functions as an “attempt to show ourselves to ourselves” even though tweeters are not fully aware of it. (video here) It is an example of an “horizontal network of relations” (pg. 26, Miller,2011) like the concept of the rhizome formulated by Deleuse and Guattari (1988); all tweets are on the same level; there is no hierarchical structure involved.

The wall is the expression of citizens; it is their words and their public thoughts. Is it possible to use this social network to study the feelings of people towards a city? Can tweets, as much as pictures posted on Instagram, really define whether an area makes people more satisfied and positive than another? Tekja is working with this idea, trying to use social networks to do a “sentiment analysis” in order to let people and companies understand the “cultural value”. ( The London’s results are very informative.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: A staff member interacts with a live social media map of London at the Big Bang Data exhibition at Somerset House on December 2, 2015 in London, England. The show highlights the data explosion that's radically transforming our lives. It opens on December 3, 2015 and runs until February 28, 2016 at Somerset House. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Somerset House)

(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Somerset House)



Usman Haque, Who controls our data? Usman Haque debates the implications of the data explosion, Feb 2016 Talk [Accessed: 22 February 2016]

Miller, V. (2011) Understanding Digital Culture. In: Miller, V. Key Elements of Digital Media. Sage: pp 12-21.

Tekja: London Data Findings 2016, [Accessed: 17 February 2016]

Thomson & Craighead on ‘London Wall: WC2’ [Accessed: 17 February 2016]

Somerset House, 2016, Big Bang Data: Thomson & Craighead,, [Accessed: 17 February 2016]

Networks of London, [Accessed: 17 February 2016]

Somerset Map,

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