Planetary Futures Goals 2030: Cosmic Data presents ‘The Cosmic Data Collection’

Blending futures-thinking and radical collaboration Futures Studios bring students together to explore the futures of technology, society, and creativity. Together with UAL Futures and IAM, participants’ collective mission is to define a set of Planetary Futures Goals — and activate creative projects.

Cosmic Data is 1 of 4 Planetary Futures Goals created by studio participants in 2017/18.

Cosmic Data is a planetary movement devoted to the creation of personalized cosmic experiences. We believe in the power of data and we want everyone to be able to consciously engage with them.

What is cosmic data collection and why we need it?

The very word ‘cosmic’ according to the Mariam-Webster dictionary “Is something relating to, or concerned with metaphysical ideas”. It is not only about going further from the given limits and creating something new and unique but also straying away from the ordinary. But what does our data have to do with cosmic?

We tend to hand out our data willingly without much thought. Each time we sign up to a service, click on a page or watch a video, a piece of our information goes to these companies. They manage to do this with ‘cookies’ — small text files stored on the users device that provides websites with information about you and your device.

Its purpose is to identify you, from remembering things like your log-in information to preferences you have created previously on the site. It’s there to provide a user experience tailored to the individual. However our data is not limited to the visited site but also extend across the web where it becomes ‘third party’ data open to various types of businesses.

Data brokers are companies that collect personal information through both public and private sources and tend to make the most use out of ‘third party’ data, although not all data brokers are the same. They provide different services such as simple data, smart data and adaptive data services which determines what data they collect and how they use it. However what they do have in common is that the data collected is analysed, categorised and then sold to other companies.

For many, the concern with these companies is privacy and the way the data may be used. However, what is also worrying and tends to be the most undermined concern among the public is the fact that we are bundled up into categories. To these data brokers, we are just another statistic viewed in a macro perspective in order to create big data for them to sell to their clients. To companies this sort of information will allow them to gain insight on trends, making business decisions and improve their products etc. But where do we, as the providers of this information benefit? We are neither given something in return for providing our data, nor have control over where it goes and what is done with it. We are often even unaware that our data is being used.

The time has come, for individuality to be explored. Rather than being another statistic, another category, we should be made aware of our data’s possibilities and what it can do, so we can make use of it. Businesses go to data brokers to buy big data which provides them insight with the market, but what they lack is a cosmic perspective. Of course providing better services and products is important for these businesses. Though not many of them are unique or standout as they are trying to cater to the majority that big data suggests they should target. Ingenuity seems to be lacking in this data collection method despite having a vast amount of data to their disposal.

So how do we explore creativity with data?

The rise in smart home voice activated gear has been observable since last year, two of them being Amazon Echo and Google Home. It is said that by 2018 the mobile industry would have over 200 smart home application. For a company, the intel of data brokers will provide them with knowledge to try and create a service that may most likely be popular and relevant to the majority. However if every company or developer contacts a data broker, then wouldn’t all the services overlap its function and identity? Only so many firsts can be done with this application. A creative mindset is needed to explore the possibilities that can be made with this new technology.

Coming from a design university this lack of creativity and identity seemed to be concerning. It prioritise the notion of fitting in to win over the general public. Instead why not explore the capabilities their services can provide? Data brokers are depriving these companies and developers from thinking outside the box.

A collaboration between IAM and UAL has created UAL Futures Studio, which allowed its students to explore and work on various topics. The main theme tackled the role of technological advancement on inventing the future and the possibilities it can provide for our society.

As a group we wanted to tackle the lack of creativity in many areas in technology where often its capacity is not being fully explored. Curiosity seems to be at a halt ironically. With more connectivity being provided, it seems we have become more fearful of showing passion for what we create. Instead we make something that conforms the majority and their ‘needs’. In this day and age to find something created for fun or pure curiosity, especially when it comes to the professional environment it seems to be outlandish and risky. Research is key but it can’t be 100% of what you create.

We wanted to allow creatives to veer away from statistics and individuals to find a cosmic experience.

The data appreciated here is not the one created and categorised by algorithms. It is personalised data which is individual to your interests, thoughts and experiences and how that influences the ideas you generate, which differs from person to person.

We came up with a solution by creating an Idea Generating card game. It’s an exercise which encourages you to create services, ideas, narratives. Just like shuffling a deck of playing cards, no two ideas will ever be the same.

The card game consists of one dealer and x number of players. There are two decks of cards. The first one, a ‘personalised’ deck includes items and already existing services. The second deck of card ‘cosmic’ consists of words that explore unique and transcendent feelings, events and ideas. The dealer will provide each player with three personalised cards. The dealer takes out one of the cosmic cards and shows it to the players. The aim is to try and connect the cosmic and personalised card to create a ‘Cosmic experience or service’. The player has 30 seconds to pitch their idea to the dealer and the other players. The dealer then decides on the most interesting idea and the winner takes over the role of the dealer. This does not only provide a service idea but moreover feedback and collaborative thoughts from the other players and the dealers.

Going back to the trend of creating smart home apps. The ‘Cosmic Data Collection’ game can generate a new service that stands out from the current ones. At the same time it allows you to have the confidence over your personal creation.

In this case, the ‘personalised’ card would be ‘Alexa’ since its an item that can be customised. While the cosmic card which provides the idea of transcendent would have the words ‘emotions’ written on it. The pitch that could be created would go along the lines of e.g. ‘creating an app that will analyse sound cues, such as humming or feet stumping, which will be linked to an emotion and play music according the users current mood. So if you are angry, Alexa can play soothing piano music to try sooth you. As you use the app it will cater to you more and more. So for example the default for anger could be soothing piano music, but it has learnt that you prefer to listen to jazz more when in this state, therefore changing its response.” The Idea can go on and on, but that’s what the cards provide. It allows you to dig into a creative mindset you were restricted beforehand and probably did not know it even existed. The ideas may sound ridiculous at first and some may or may not be possible, but from the many ideas that you come up with one will be of value. This has become a data collection method that allows you to veer away from the standard statistical data and provides creativity and identity to the service you ideate. This is veering away from trying to fit in but instead trying to stand out. That is what Cosmic Data is about.

Read more about Cosmic Data:
www.ualfuturestudio2030.com/cosmic-data

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