Digital Realism starts with a simple idea: just as in the past photography and film enabled new documentary forms with distinctive features, we ask how data-driven approaches can offer new ways to image social realities.

In an era when public issues of concern are increasingly framed, mirrored and played out as social exchanges and circulations of data, discourses around big data promise fundamental changes in our ability to represent and understand human behaviour. Analysis of digital archives generated from user interactions with Blogs, Wikipedia. Flickr, Twitter etc. (termed ‘big social data’) enable distinctively new ways of capturing the social as flows of sentiment, idea and debate. Advocates argue that the patterns revealed in these vast amounts of information have the potential to reveal solutions to some of our most pressing social, economic, political, and environmental issues.

Affect and an interest in documenting the social are intrinsic themes for the contemporary arts which we argue can conceptually link to processes in big data that track, represent and analyse social realties. Digital Realism seeks to research big data in order to test how it can lead to what we might loosely term ‘data documentary’. How can we use big data and its techniques to articulate contemporary events, stories and structures, and what critical issues in regard representation would such an approach present?

As part of this project we will be developing some exploratory artworks derived from publicly available data sets in the form of visualisations, animations, large-scale static images and digital 3D models. This material will be made available via this blog with wherever possible, source code and curated data. We have a commitment to openness so we’ll also disclose production processes by providing design notes that map working methods.

To find out more about who we are please go here.

Digital Realism is supported by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council and funded as part of their Digital Transformations Scheme.

Tom Corby, 12th May 2014