Monthly Archives: November 2023

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.


Exploring the Irish planning data ecosystem for the 74th World Town Planning Day

World Town Planning Day Logo

On November 8, 2023, to mark the occasion of the 74th World Town Planning Day, the Irish Planning Institute (IPI) hosted the themed webinar ‘Learn Globally, Apply Locally’. The theme focused on the value of learning about planning systems and cultures around the world, fostering innovative, sustainable and equitable solutions to global challenges.

The Data Stories team used this opportunity to present work carried out during the summer of 2023 on the Irish planning data ecosystem. We were joined by Claragh Mulhern, from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, with a presentation titled ‘Planning Action for a Just Transition to a Net Zero Climate Resilient World’ and Sinéad O’Donoghue, from the Land Development Agency, with a presentation titled ‘From Depots to Duplexes – Reimagining Public Land’. Over 100 people registered for the event and many represented international backgrounds. 

The work presented by the Data Stories team identified and mapped the numerous data systems and flows across different planning stages and clients. These mappings were derived from analysis of documentation and system demos received from, and interviews conducted with, a sample of Local Authority planners and other stakeholders involved in producing and managing planning data in Ireland.  

The presentation sought to communicate something of the complexity of the data ecosystem, as well as the extent of variation and drift between different systems, properties which make it difficult to produce reliable and comparable official statistics. The presentation concluded with a set of high-level observations and recommendations, with a hope that the improved understanding of the ecosystem provided by this project can help in working towards a greater degree of standardisation across systems, and in turn to more accurate, detailed information for informing transparent and coherent planning decisions.

You can find further information, including a recording of the webinar as well as our presentation slides, on the Irish Planning Institute website. 

We would like to thank and acknowledge the various consultees who took the time to meet with us and supply data as requested. 

A collaborative workshop between student unions and the DDPA

On Saturday, November 4, 2023, Juliette Davret, postdoctoral researcher on Data Stories, and two of the project artists, Joan Somers Donnelly and Augustine O’Donoghue, took part in a workshop organized by the Dublin Democratic Planning Alliance (DDPA) in cooperation with Student Unions to work on the issue of student housing.

DDPA Student Housing Workshop Poster
Source: DDPA – Sudent Housing: A Collaborative Workshop

The importance of providing student accommodation in Ireland lies in meeting the growing needs associated with the increasing demand for higher education. This demand, both nationally and internationally, is putting significant pressure on the student housing market. Ensuring fair access to education and promoting student well-being are central issues, while adequate housing conditions contribute to the attraction and retention of talent. However, Ireland faces major issues such as housing shortages, high rents and precarious living conditions, requiring coordinated intervention between government, educational institutions and the private sector to develop sustainable and affordable solutions. Resolving these challenges is crucial to the continued success of the education system, the well-being of students and the country’s economic development. 

The three-hour workshop brought together built environment and housing practitioners from Ireland and Europe, students and student unions representing third-level institutions in Dublin and was divided into different parts. The first part focused on gathering perspectives on housing issues from attendees. Several students gave short presentations highlighting the issues they see as key in today’s political landscape. Then, divided into working groups by table, attendees brainstormed a word to express a common feeling about the student housing situation. The working group including Data Stories team members chose the following words: grim, bad, expensive, mouldy, oversubscribed, stress, insecure, transient. Clearly, attendees did not hold positive feelings about the housing situation. Eventually they settled on ‘expensive insecurity’.

The Data Stories team at the DDPA Student Housing Workshop.

Later in the day, various experts gave presentations, each focusing on a specific theme related to the wider context of housing, data systems, investment and social protection in Ireland and Europe. Many individuals spoke, including Dara Turnbull (Housing Europe), Carole Pollard (RIAI) and László Molnárfi (TCDSU). Following the presentations, participants worked in small groups to explore one particular theme in greater depth. The working group including Data Stories team members worked specifically on the question of “Digital and Data-Driven Decision Making: Understanding the imperative for incorporating digital data-driven systems within Irish policy-making processes.”. Discussing this issue in a multi-stakeholder workshop was a way of enriching the Data Stories project team’s experience in order to understand the data generated and used to address the housing issue for students.

According to the DDPA, they will produce a report condensing the participants’ comments. The Data Stories team looks forward to reading this report.

The DDPA recommended the following material as preparation for the workshop: