I am one of the organizers of the Mediafonds@Sandberg Masterclass that couples new media designers with traditional media directors to experiment with innovative ways of storytelling. For the 2010 edition we are focussing on ‘Datavisualization’, and Database Culture in a more general way and what this might mean for the documentary format. The Program consists of a Conference open to the general public and a Masterclass for invited participants.
Follow The Money
The database as a narrative form
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, our lives play out in a succession of databases and spreadsheets. Not only do we spend all day rummaging through countless data streams like Google and Facebook; everything we do leaves traces behind in other databases, through public transport chip cards, supermarket club cards and electronic medical files. The influence of databases, Excel sheets and algorithms has never been as clearly visible as it became during the credit crisis. The crisis cast a cold light on the fact that the global financial system had been built on the basis of mathematical models that attempted to quantify human behaviour. Blinded by the beauty of impressive mathematical systems, people thought they could precisely understand the risks of investments. Meanwhile it has become clear how risky it is to be dependent on these.
The media world, too, is paying more attention to the ever-increasing data streams. Data visualisation – a genre within visual culture that depicts data streams in provocative, poetic or insightful ways – has been booming, thanks to the growing availability of large amounts of data and the desire to grasp ever more complex realities by visual means. But is it always a good idea to assign such an important role to numerical information? How can we best interpret various data in relation to the values we consider important? And which new forms of storytelling does data visualisation have to offer us? Will the data film be the new documentary form?
The Mediafonds@Sandberg conference will consider the possibilities and consequences of these developments for media producers.