All posts by Oliver Dawkins

Data City Dublin at Beta Festival 2023

This November saw the introduction of a new festival of art and technology on Dublin’s annual arts calendar: Beta Festival. The festival programme centered around a free two-and-a-half-week exhibition running from the 2nd to the 19th of November at the Digital Hub in Dublin’s Liberties. The Data Stories team were pleased to be invited to exhibit Data City Dublin for the festival’s opening and first weekend.

The purpose of Data City Dublin is to collect and present evidence regarding Dublin’s housing crisis in a public forum, and to stimulate debate. Combining a large 3D printed model with projected data overlays, the exhibit seeks to bridge the gap between official accounts of housing, planning and property issues and the individual experiences of the city’s inhabitants. While searching the surface of the model for points of interest such as schools, homes and workplaces, visitors are encouraged to share their stories and experiences with each other. In this way the model provides a tangible reference linking spatially located data to personal narrative via their association with familiar places across the city, here represented in miniature.

Visitors search Data City Dublin

Data City Dublin Discussion

News Headlines

A new element introduced especially for Beta Festival was the incorporation of news headlines concerning housing, planning, and property stories from the past twenty years. Borrowing the concept from Jeneen Naji’s work River Poem, this stream of news headlines was projected floating down the River Liffey and out to sea. By revisiting the diverse range of opinions, reactions, and speculations represented by these headlines, visitors were prompted to reflect on the events leading to the current housing crisis and encouraged to consider alternative approaches for the future.

Data City Website on Mobile Phone  

Accompanying the exhibit was a dedicated website which provided further information about each of the datasets being projected onto the model. Access to the website was exclusive to Beta Festival visitors who could access them by scanning QR code on their mobile phones. Data City Dublin was just one of many exhibits including photographic images, films and computer animations, installations, an interactive AI chatbot and a large central 360-degree immersive space. However, measuring 3.5 x 2 metres, the 3D printed model and vivid data overlays comprising Data City Dublin provided a strong physical and visual presence in the space.  

Data City Dublin’s appearance in the festival aligned well with Beta’s overarching themes of critically engagement with emerging technologies and interrogation of their societal impact. Emphasising values of collaboration, integrity, empowerment and curiosity, Beta provided an ideal forum for a work like Data City Dublin which combines novel uses of technology with critical research. With a five-year commitment from The Digital Hub to host the festival we look forward to it becoming a key event for future explorations of the crossover between art and technology.


Data Stories and Arts-based Methods: Introducing the Artists

We’re pleased and excited to introduce the first cohort of artists to join the Data Stories team. Joan Somers Donnelly, Mel Galley and Augustine O’Donoghue will be helping the team to explore arts-based methods as a means for research-creation. Typically, arts-based methods are integrated into research projects toward their conclusion to communicate findings to the public in novel ways.

What makes this method stand out is that, with the integration of our artists and their specific skill sets, we will embed creative approaches throughout the entire research process. So rather than giving the artists our findings and asking them to share them to the public, they are working with us at the onset to change the way we approach our own work and challenge our pre-conceived understandings of Dublin’s planning, property and housing systems.

In the coming months each artist will team up with one Data Stories researcher to create data stories that respond to issues and challenges raised during our mapping of the policy, planning and housing data ecosystem in Ireland. While working with our researchers and various external stakeholder organisations, each artist will also develop their own data story concepts that express their unique approaches to artistic practice.

We hope you look forward to seeing the outcomes as much as we do.

Joan Somers Donnelly

Photo credit: Elien Ronse

I am an Irish artist based between Brussels and Dublin, with a collaborative practice that moves between performance, writing, research and organising. Previous work includes a human choir that performed for cows; a piece for swimmers in the Irish sea; an interactive fantasy about the politics of housing in Dublin; a video essay about social spaces of gig economy workers made with my father; and performances and other invitations for lamp posts, zoom calls, U-bahn stations and apartments.

My practice is primarily concerned with examining existing social rules and structures and creating not-yet-existing ones, using performance and other live situations as a testing ground for experiments in different ways of relating. Much of my recent work has focused on the creation of frameworks for playful encounter, exchange, and co-creation, such as the group improvisation practice messing, the platform for collaboration You and Me, an Anger Club, and a first manifestation of a practice-sharing space for women and non-binary multimedia artists called In practice(s): The wood and the trees. My work is currently supported by the Arts Council of Ireland and radical_house, Brussels.

I was drawn to the Data Stories project because of a long-standing engagement with the politics of space and space-making in Dublin, both in and outside of my artistic practice. I am also looking forward to working as part of an interdisciplinary research team, and to the new challenge of working with stakeholders across the public, private and civil society sectors. A practice-based research approach has become increasingly present in my work, particularly around the question of how to create conditions for collaboration between diverse actors from and in different contexts, so this residency presents an interesting next chapter in that trajectory.

Mel Galley 

Currently based in Dublin, Ireland, I grew up between the Dales and Cumbria in the UK. My closeness to these rural landscapes has heavily influenced my research; specifically how industrial or military activity exists alongside motifs of ‘wilderness’ in these areas. Growing from an early (and ongoing) love of science-fiction and anti-/utopian literature, in my practice I construct unreal places, translating ideas through mediums from contemporary technologies of CAD and CGI to laser etching and printmaking. Creating these unreal places allows me to analyse and reorder research, offering an alternative point of entry into existing discussions on place, ecology and ethics. Frequently my works are shown as multiples, such as pamphlets or handouts, which the audience can take out of the arts space with them and into the landscapes that they consider. The draw to join the Data Stories project, for me, was the focus around data and place, specifically through the lens of politics, ethics and narrative. I’m excited to be spending a year working alongside the researchers on this project to develop art works and workshops with and about the data!

I’ve shown work across Ireland and the UK, participated on artist residencies in Manchester, Cumbria and Dublin, and delivered classes and workshops at three universities. In 2021 I was awarded 2nd Place Practitioner Category in the RIBA Eye Line awards and in 2020 received the award for Young Cumbrian Artist of the Year (a real joy to be recognised by the county I’m from). Two of my works are held in the collections of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, whilst many more are on the walls and shelves of people I care about – which is equally meaningful to me.

Augustine O’Donoghue 

I am asocially engaged visual artist based in Dublin. My artwork engages with a range of local and global socio-political issues.Over the last two decades my art projects have been research based and collaborative throughout their development and creation. I use an array of socially engaged and participatory approaches to develop interdisciplinary projectsand have collaborated with diverse groups of people including students, scientists, migrant workers, academics, refugees and social organisations across Ireland, Latin America and Africa.

The Data Stories project really captivated my interest as it was an opportunity to draw together many topics and strands of my art practice that I feel really passionate about. The projects original research concept of using data stories to explore the data and analytics relating to property and planning, the opportunity of using creative methodologies to work with stakeholder groups that may not traditionally work with artists and having direct access to the research team and their vast knowledge and experience will allow me to create new work in an exciting and innovative way. More importantly it will allow me to create new work with a level of criticality that would be challenging to achieve without this project.

To learn more about the use of arts-based methods in research creation, please read the project working paper ‘Arts-based methods for researching digital life.’  forthcoming as a chapter in ‘Researching Digital Life’, James Ash and Agnieszka Leszczynski’s co-authored book.


Data Stories and the Synthetic City: Exploring Urban Living through the Data City Dublin Exhibit

The Synthetic City conference took place at Dublin City University (DCU) on the 6th and 7th of September 2023. Hosted by the ECREA Media, Cities and Space Section, the conference attracted researchers in cities, media and the arts from across the globe to explore the impact of artificial intelligence and digital media on cities and urban living. 

The Data Stories project attended in order to demonstrate the Data City Dublin exhibit as one of the conference’s several practice-based interventions. Data City Dublin is a large-scale 3D printed model of central Dublin which covers 28 sq. km of the city from Phoenix Park in the west to the Dublin Docks in the east. The model is then animated by projected data visualisations representing spatial patterns and change over time.

Excitingly this was the first public exhibition of Data City Dublin. The piece was first created as an end of project exhibition for the Building City Dashboards project. Unfortunately, this wasn’t possible due to the global coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The exhibit is now being used by the Data Stories project as one of several creative and art-based methods for exploring stories about the housing crisis in Ireland through property and planning data.

The Data City Dublin exhibit will continue to evolve as the Data Stories project progresses. On this occasion we displayed several visualisations from the earlier iteration, including eye-catching heat maps of air quality and noise pollution from Dublin’s open data archives. Focusing on our theme of planning and property data, we displayed data from the Inside Airbnb advocacy site representing the distribution of Airbnb properties across the city. This was juxtaposed with distributions of land uses across central Dublin on a building-by-building basis derived from data provided by Tailte Éireann.

New for this exhibit was a time series of orthographic imagery depicting changes in Dublin’s built environment from 1999 through to 2019. Depicting the city in photographic detail in this way enables  us to contextualise the current state of the city by showing how the city changed during the period known as the Celtic Tiger and subsequent financial crash, up until the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Supporting the exhibit our Creative Technologist Oliver Dawkins presented a talk ‘Data City Dublin: Grounding Data Through Hybrid Media and Physicalisation’ which contextualised the new work on Data City Dublin in relation to his prior research using sensing devices on the Internet of Things, gaming technologies and augmented and virtual realities to help understand how people interact with buildings and cities in real-world contexts.

New visualisations and data stories will be added to Data City Dublin as the Data Stories project continues to develop. In doing so the team hope it will provide a valuable resource for engaging both professional stakeholders and the wider public with debates in housing, property and planning in creative and exciting new ways.