One of the great pleasures of my summer was working with Jessica Rajko and Eileen Standley on our Vibrant Lives project.

Our Friday “lab” sessions were exercises in interdisciplinary learning, listening, moving, and playing. IMG_1961IMG_1964

The above are two stills from one of our very early movement sessions, in which Jessica, Eileen, and some of our dance collaborators were exploring connected/connecting movement. We moved, we talked about the gravity working to pull my body into the floor, we talked about what it means to embody corporate or painful data, we laughed. It was really a day unlike any other that I’ve had.

Part of what we’ve spent the summer doing is understanding how to manifest three of our initial goals:

  • An entanglement with bodies, technologies, and information through movement, design, and digital critique.
  • A remaking, an act of “critical attention,” a gesture of generosity.
  • A sweeping up of the torrential data shed that has become central to western culture in order to “give back” that data in a non-monetized, non-commercial form.

In a more colloquial language we are working to help people understand the amount of data we “shed” every day as we engage in western, capitalist cultures. We want people to feel their data. Our work is an intervention in how we know. Saying that people produce 2.5 quintillion (10^18) bytes of data per day globally induces lots of “wows” but it’s really hard to wrap one’s head around. Instead of trying to explicate, we want people to experience. We want people to use their bodies to feel that torrent of data production.

That has involved not only Jessica, Eileen, and I engaging with other dancers, but also working closely with folks in data security, computing and information sciences, and mobile app development. We’ve been a vibrant community of people in industry and academia and the arts – at all levels. Using Woojers and a custom built app,iOS Simulator Screen Shot Aug 25, 2015, 11.01.15 PM we are getting closer – we can feel our own data, we can feel archival data (that breaks our hearts), and we can share some of this. Our first performance is a at the ASU faculty showcase in the Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts. While Jessica, Eileen, and I have been working together a fair amount this summer, it’s also been distributed work in our larger group of collaborators (12 to date). I, for example, have only met the dancers once. Jentery Sayers and Nina Belojevic (of and formerly of the UVic Maker’s Lab) are coming to join us for the performances – brave souls, they are coming in mostly cold. But we’ll spend time playing with data sonification, haptics, and movement while they are here.

Over the course of the fall we will work with the app, integrate additional features and data sets, and think more about our performance environment. We’ll be rolling out new or improved elements at the 2016 HASTAC meeting, at the spark! Festival, and at DHSI 2016. We hope to be able to see some of you there!

It’s been a great summer of work and we are grateful to the Institute of Humanities Research and Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts for seed grant suport.