A Game Developer, an Illustrator, a Journalist, and a Musician Walk Into a Hackathon…
On 31 August to 1 September, M+ organised the museum’s first M+ Data Design Hackathon, where we released our first open dataset, including 2,000+ records on objects in the M+ Collections into the public domain. In addition to the open dataset, the museum also released a public API for programmatic access to the same data.
We have been incredibly humbled and awed by the reception of the first M+ Data Design Hackathon. The hackathon celebrated the first release of our open data: a data set of 2,237 works in the M+ Collections. Congratulations to everyone who participated on a job well done!
In the short span of about ten hours, we watched our intrepid hackathon teams toss about terms like ‘data music’ and ‘visitor experience’, and meta concepts such as ‘artwork about artworks’. Although this hackathon was timed around the release of our open data (now online at GitHub and available through our public API), it was also about bringing together a variety of arts and culture enthusiasts. It was amazing to see such a diverse mix of people join forces: game developers, illustrators, user experience strategists, students, journalists, architects, musicians, and more.
A huge congratulations to our winners, Team Algorithm. Their project, Sim M+, was a stunning app in which users could explore the M+ Collections by artist through the lenses of gender, nationality, and age demographics. Take a peek in the video below.
Kudos as well to our first runner-ups, Team Jellyfish. They prototyped the app ‘Art Experience’, in which visitors were encouraged to curate their own tours, powered by information from our data that helped them make connections between disparate artworks.
Highlights of the Day
A number of themes emerged throughout the day as our hackathon participants dug into the data. Teams posed interesting questions about the future of the museum experience, and critically examined the shape of this first M+ Collections data set. We’re excited to share some of the ideas and projects below:
1. Bridging the Digital and Physical
At the end of the day, M+ will be a physical space filled with objects and artworks. Many of the teams talked about how our future museum building, spanning 17,000 square meters of gallery space, might be disorientating for our future visitors. Where will they start? How will they begin to navigate the enormity of our collections and space?
Can we map personalised tours per visitor?
How can we create connections between our physical environments and objects in the M+ Collections?
What if access to information was little more than a camera snap away?
2. Understanding the M+ Collections
This is the first time that a partial data set of the M+ Collections has been released into the public domain and made available for easy access. Many of the hackathon teams also took the opportunity to get to know the collections in depth for the first time. These 2,000+ works greatly expanded upon the small selection that is available for exploration on our westkowloon.hk website.
A simple visualisation showing how the bulk of the works in this slice of the M+ Collections were created in the 2000s and 2010s.
A word map of object titles colour-coded by discipline.
An exploration of how personal data (or that from social media) might help connect visitors to works and artists related to their interests.
A hackathon is also about being creative and, sometimes, creating silly experiments! What might it mean to use the M+ Collections data as raw material for other artworks? Our hackathon leaders also got in on the action, playing with emoji translators and post-it notes on site.
A concept for visualising not only the collections data, but relationships between artworks within the physical space of our future museum building.
A reminder from Jane Pong that analog data visualisation can still be interesting. This was cut from post-it notes on site at the hackathon.
Micah Walter took the object titles from this slice of the M+ Collections and put them into an emoji translator to see what would come out. Some of our favourites: 🍌Harvest, 😋🐬Life, 🚷.
To be honest, we weren’t sure what to expect when we first conceived of this hackathon. How would people respond to a partial, text-based data set?
The vast plethora of ideas and projects that came out from the hackathon was truly inspiring, and we’re so excited to see what might come next as we continue to release more of our collections data. Thank you to everyone who joined us for this event — we enjoyed meeting each and every one of you! For those of you who weren’t able to make it, please stay in touch and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay in the loop on future hackathons.
A final note, in case you missed it: our open data set is now available online at the links below. Go forth and explore!
A special thank you to everyone who contributed to the event — to our hackathon leaders Micah Walter and Jane Pong, to Tai Kwun Center for Heritage and Arts for the venue, to our panel of judges, to our internal museum team for preparing the data sets and materials for the hackathon participants, and to all of the participants for joining us.
Feel free to drop us a line with a link to your projects; we’d love to see them!