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.
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.
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.