What is the impact of a global event like the Biennale on the city of Venice? Which digital traces do people and organisations leave behind themselves, expressing in the city during the Biennale? It is possible to harvest this data in ethical ways? How is it possible to transform it into a shared experience - a “computational commons” available in the new ubiquitous public space? How can cities as a whole - and the city of Venice in particular - use this data to plan and shape the policies and cultural programming that influence the daily life of people?
The Human Architecture project was designed to address these questions through an art installation presented at the Venice Pavilion, a workshop hosted by Ca’ Foscari University, a public round table which significantly took place right in the center of the city, at Pescheria di Rialto: the historical fish market of Venice. The three actions united students, architects, creatives, artists, designers, policy makers and citizens in a coral reflection, mixing arts, design and research to explore the role of data in contemporary public spaces.
Fiorenza Lipparini: Data to the People - Urban regeneration in the digital era.
"When we [PlusValue] first started to work with HER, what we were looking for was a smart way to evaluate the impact of the regeneration project we were working on over time. At its simplest, confronted with over 20 years of construction works and a 99 years long concession period, we were trying to figure out how to make sure that we kept answering the needs of all the different groups of people who would have interacted with the place, following different modalities [...]. Network and sentiment analysis of data collected on the internet and social media as well as through sensors and smart agents, seemed the right response; but we soon came to realise that for this to be a tool of inclusion and community building and not a piece of social engineering 4.0 we needed more than data processing and analysis.
We needed to engage with data owners who, in so many cases, were totally unaware of the very fact that they were producing data all the time, and that this same data was in turn influencing so many of their decisions via opaque algorithms presenting them with suggestions on how to move, where to go, what and where to buy etc. We also needed to engage with data owners who, despite having no idea of what to do with the data they produced, had no intention whatsoever to share it (“data is the new oil” is probably the dumbest sentence coined in the XXI century, and the most popular). And, if we really wanted to drive positive change, we also needed to factor in that we might have needed access to very sensitive data, for instance on health or financial situations, something which might be either illegal or immoral but for very special cases.[...]
In conclusion, what we understood is that we needed a proper engagement programme allowing-us to extend the discussion around data to a non-technical audience, including both individuals and organisations, and that the objective was to create trust, i.e. a sound relational ecosystem allowing to work with data as a commons and turn-it into businesses, services, art-pieces or whatever fantasy could suggest. [..]That’s why we need to adopt a “living lab” approach, bringing together the public and the private, the organised and the emerging, the individual and the community, to explore new paths for a “non-extractive” data-economy.
I really think this is where we want to be in the future, and that this cultural/ethical side of a technological revolution is what we need to project our EU social model – what makes us different, and in my view better, than any other developed economy – in the XXI century and beyond. Projects such as Human Architectures are paving the way, showing us that we can deal with data with the people and for the people, leveraging on art and creativity, re-appropriating our cities, bridging the divide between physical and digital, while having fun in the process. Hopefully, what is today an experiment, will soon become the norm and the unique advantage of the European way to the data-economy, i.e. a social economy way."