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Big Data Art: Twitter Meets the First Amendment

Big Data Art: Twitter Meets the First Amendment

In conjunction with their current exhibition, The Power of Labeling, The Incluseum, a project run in part by iSchool PhD student Rose Paquet Kinsley, is presenting Exhibit Focus Fridays! Every Friday during this summer, they are highlighting an aspect of the exhibition. Recently, they featuring the piece “Occupy the Amendment” by iSchool PhD alum and artist Jeff Hemsley.  Here, Jeff describes his artistic process in his own words.

What happens when we label people? Particularly in the era of Big Data, where a person’s name can be associated with a set of purchasing preferences, a list of the people we interact with, our home address and our political activities. This is what inspired me to submit to the Incluseum ‘s online exhibit about the power of labeling.

My medium is artistic data visualization. For me, this means I use computational algorithms to make visualizations of large scale social data. This piece, titled Occupy the Amendment, has been created using Twitter data collected during the Occupy Oakland successful protest that shut down the port of Oakland. It is a network visualization, so the links (lines) indicate how often two people retweeted each other. But I have replaced all of the user’s labels with text from the first amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights. There are thousands of user labels, so the first amendment is repeated over and over like a mantra. I have also portrayed the visualization as if the labels and links were hand drawn on parchment as a way to juxtapose our founding national values with modern representations of human political interactions.”

Check out a large scale view of Jeff Hemsley’s “Occupy the Amendment, 2014” Artistic Data Visualization

(Editor’s note: A version of this article originally appeared on The Incluseum blog.)

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