Examining Networks of Power

Attractor: Owen Mundy

This thread intends to examine representations of contemporary control structures and discuss whether or not an image, particularly network graphs depicting power relationships, information flows, economic activity, etc. have the ability to reverse trends of concentrated power. Does depicting power lead to greater democratization of said power or are we merely creating beautiful images that detract from their original intent—to reveal, examine, and act. To what effect does mapping complex data depicting influential actors, institutions, moments in time, finance systems, mapped onto a two-dimensional surface unravel the power they represent by distributing that power?

Methodology: We’ll begin the discussion by looking at historical examples of communication that intend to affect power structures. We’ll examine works by artists and cultural practitioners such as Hans Haacke, Mark Lombardi, Josh On (theyrule.net), Bureau d’études, and more. We’ll consider Manual Castells‘ “Network Theory of Power” within these context(s). Then we’ll discuss visual components of network graphs, asking in particular; what data and representational forms help make a graph speak to as many people as possible. Finally we’ll work in groups to extend the discussion into possible solutions and various statements and recommendations for such representations.

Biography: Owen Mundy is an artist, designer, and programmer who investigates public space and its relationship to data. His artwork highlights inconspicuous trends and offers tools to make hackers out of everyday users. In 2002 he co-founded the organization, Your Art Here, which worked with artists and local schools to engage the community by putting art in public spaces usually reserved for commercial messages. In 2009 he created Give Me My Data, a Facebook application that helps users reclaim their information in various reusable data formats. He has an MFA in Visual Art from the University of California, San Diego and is an Assistant Professor of Art at Florida State University.