Monday, July 11, 2011

Physical Bar Charts at TEDGlobal 2011

Today at TED Lucy Kimbell. Video timelapse edited by Kiersten Nash; timelapse data grabbed with help from Mike Femia of TED.

My Physical Bar Charts were installed at TEDGlobal 2011 in Edinburgh in July. Over the conference, people helped themselves to badges from the installation, which together revealed a picture of what this temporary community was thinking about and how the conference shaped their activity.

The eight badges for this version of the Physical Bar Charts had these texts (from left to right):
  • I surprised myself
  • I was inspired and acted upon it
  • My ideas were challenged (least popular)
  • What am I doing here?
  • I stayed up too late last night
  • My ideas had sex with another TEDster's
  • I delayed judgement
  • I said what I believe (most popular)
People are invited to help themselves to badge(s) that say something about what's on their mind or what they have been doing at TED. Most of the badges are deliberately in the first person and refer to acts in the past. They of course mean different things to different people, but once selected and then worn, can spark conversations among members of the conference community. At the same time, the Physical Bar Charts reveal a collective picture - what the community says it has been doing as a whole.

Together, as a device the Physical Bar Charts are an example of social data gathering, collaborative sense-making, playful research, real-time reporting, experiential inquiry. They spark conversations and prompt a community such as TED to reflect on its concerns and practices.

This is the eighth time the piece has been shown. It was first developed and shown, in collaboration with sociologist Andrew Barry, for the group exhibition Making Things Public, curated by Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel at ZKM Karlsruhe, Germany, in 2005. (See the catalogue published by MIT Press.) In other versions, the piece has explored how people think about citizenship and political activity and to what extent they want to make public their participation in collective life. The bar charts have been installed in venues such as public libraries, a university campus, art institutions and also small galleries on a city high street.

The next version of the piece will be one created for the specific context of contemporary Italian politics, in a group show on democracy at the Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, opening in September 2011.

TED Blog interview with me about the TED Physical Bar Charts

Thanks to Hermeet Gill who suggested the piece to TED, and to Kiersten Nash for helping realise it this year