Press Release

The Datalogue | Press Release
Data Mining in 3D: Making the Invisible Visible
May 19, 2018 | New York, NY
With big data comes big responsibility; this is the core message that the students at SVA’s MFA in Products of Design came together to expose at Wanted Design this year. The timely exhibition questions the use of data by large technology companies and dissects the process behind data mining.

The graduate students have created The Datalogue, a five-part machine which replicates the data mining process employed by commercial companies to create profiles on individual users, enabling their vulnerability to third-party developers and advertisers. Though data mining is an invisible procedure that occurs through countless digital channels, the exhibition transforms it into a visible, tangible process.

The Datalogue illuminates the aggregation of data points through a series of five tactile interaction stations. The vibrant machine’s conspicuous aesthetic naturally attracted event attendees, while illuminating the need for data transparency in its three-dimensional form.

Upon entering the exhibit, participants were given a delightful yet mysterious card; the meaning of which would become clear later on. At each station, participants were greeted by assistive agents who prompted participants with seemingly innocuous questions such as, “You just arrived home from work. What are you most likely to click on?” Participants then would choose their response with an interaction that initiated a physical “click.”

Interaction stations included walking aimlessly in a human-sized hamster wheel and desperately maneuvering a monster claw. Each decision made by the participant was marked on the card by the assistive agents. After completing their five interactions, participants were given their own psychographic key, which included a profile description and the big reveal: which Wanted Design product would be “advertised” to them, based on their responses.

At the end of the exhibition, it was revealed that each question was used to gauge a specific characteristic of the user’s personality. This process was directly informed by the personality quiz that Cambridge Analytica used to gather unauthorized data from over 87 million users worldwide to build user profiles and target them with ads that would ultimately sway the 2016 U.S. election.