Data Materiality and Matters of Communication
This essay examines the gaps between data and the physical world, and how these gaps are increasingly exploited by agents of misinformation. Following Edward Tufte's dictum »above all show the data«, visualization and data analytics are often presented as emancipatory tools to separate the signal from the noise. These tools, however, are silent about how data comes into being, the material conditions and social practices of data collection. Data visualizations further decontextualize data and thus reinforce this gap between data and the material world. At the same time, a kinship exists between visualizations and traces, but how do they correspond to one another exactly? Is a bar-chart a metaphor for a stack of objects with different heights? Or are both the expression of a more fundamental sense of organization that even non-human beings can recognize? The essay examines evidentiary practices that ask such questions to identify, reveal, and interpret physical traces; making the process of data collection accountable and accessible to sensory experience.