Living in Data
Introducing Jer Thorp- an artist, writer, teacher, and speaker.
Jer Thorp is a Data Artist who works to connect the arts and sciences. Prior to his current career, he worked as a Geneticist. Like a Geneticist would study genes and find the roles they play in disease and health. Thorp instead studies and organizes data in ways that brings it to life through software. As a Data Artist, he interprets complicated data sets. His work is centered around making data easier to comprehend. His deep influences of science and creativity have made him a reputable person in the Digital Studies world.
Thorp’s visualization of the influence of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity on contemporary scientific research appeared in Scientific American’s September 2015 commemorative issue on Einstein and was featured in The Best American Infographics 2016 (Anon, Wiki).
In 2021, Thorp released his first book, Living in Data: A Citizen’s Guide to a Better Information Future. The book really pushes the reader to think and be a critical user of technology. Jer analyzes how the word data has been used between the time frame of 1984 and 2018. Thorp’s crucial question of our time: how do we stop passively inhabiting data, and become active citizens of it? Understanding visualizations, Jer thought something from this art was missing. “That the numbers aren’t just numbers, that each of these numbers is tethered to something in the real world — and often those real world things are people.” Living in Data keeps humanity front and center. There is also a question left for the readers and their relationships with data. How do we want to imagine our future of tech? How do we feel about the way data is used by companies currently?
Jer Thorp shares about some of his experiences in the book including the time he want to Botswana. His experiences there made him think a lot about indigenous data sovereignty, which means people have the right to decide how their data is used by others. Data sovereignty is different depending on which nation or country a person lives in.
Thorp says in his book “If we want to see change in our lives, we have to change things ourselves.” Personally, if we are all connected we should have universal laws that protect the rights of the users. People will take advantage of being able to do things in other countries. These laws would be about safety. We have to find a way to get it back. A way to gain back our control- for humanity.