As part of the FemTechNet signal/noise conference this April in Ann Arbor, MI the Vibrant Lives team will be presenting DataPlay.

Participants in the DataPLAY will engage with a set of interactive sculptures that we are currently developing that will offer a range of haptic engagements with data. Included in this will be the Vibrant app, which uses participant’s mobile phone data to produce touch-based (haptic) feedback. Infrasonic subwoofers placed within the sculptures produce vibration feedback based on individual and aggregate data packets being sent and received through mobile phones. The data is de-identified and not permanently captured in order to protect privacy and security. Intended to be a highly interactive session that takes “play” as both recreation and performance, the Vibrant Lives DataPLAY encourages participants to touch, hold, and play with both personal and collective data. Among the play-scenes will be a braiding station, a sandbox, several haptic sculptures, and a data-based dress-up station.

Building off of a larger collaborative project titled “Vibrant Lives,” our session serves as both education and provocation. We want participants to better understand the massive amounts of data we shed on a daily basis and the ways we might engage with that shedding activity as feminist scholars and activists. Our session will be both physical exploration and collective discussion and is informed by our work in improvisational and collaborative performance, feminist STS, and digital/media studies. Among our goals are to continue explore the interdisciplinary perspectives that consider data and its relationships to body and human activity, to foster discussion of what haptics and sonification might offer us in terms of both research and performance of critical perspectives on digital culture, and the possible development of additional research agendas around haptics, personal and public data, and performative approaches to scholarly work.

Globally, people produce 2.5 quintillion (10^18) bytes of data per day. That’s roughly 3.5 million bytes of data per person, per day. Despite the torrential production, many people are only dimly aware of the volume and content of their own data production. Further, few understand how and why corporations and governments are sweeping up this information, even as they argue that such activity logging is benign, or even beneficial, surveillance. Nevertheless, it is clear that this is a highly valued (monetized) part of our lived experience. Critically commenting on this use of personal data, our work gives audiences a real-time sense of their own voluminous data shed. By highlighting the different ways that we engage with technologies of communication, we ask our participant-audiences to consider interplays of value, valuation, and embodied information.