Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Data Intimacies

ghdNew paper: "Data intimacies: Building infrastructures for intensified embodied encounters with air pollution" has just been published by Nerea Calvillo Gonzalez and Emma Garnett.

The air is, in many urban contexts, polluted. Governments and institutions monitor particles and gas concentrations to better understand how they perform in light of air quality guidance and legislation, and to make predictions in terms of future environmental health targets. The visibility of this data is considered crucial for citizens to manage their own health, and a proliferation of new informational forms and apps have been created to achieve this. And yet, beyond everyday decisions (when to use a mask or when to do sports outdoors), it is not clear whether current methods of engaging citizens produce behavioural change or stronger citizen engagement with air pollution. Drawing on the design, construction and ethnography of an urban infrastructure to measure, make visible and remediate particulate matter (PM2.5) through a water vapour cloud that we installed at the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism 2017, we examine the effects and affects of producing a public space that allows for physical interaction with data. In Yellow Dust (YD), data of PM2.5 are translated into mist, the density of the mist responsive to the number of particles suspended in the air. Data are made sense/ible in the changing conditions of the air surrounding the infrastructure, which can be experienced in embodied, collective and relational ways, what we call ‘molecular intimacies’. By reflecting on how the infrastructure facilitated new modes of sensing data, we consider how ‘data intimacies’ can re-specify action by producing different forms of engagement with air pollution.