Data Crystals are a series of 3D-printed sculptures, which I generate algorithmically from open data sources. These manifest a vision of what data physically looks like — one possibility for 3D data visualization.
My source for the data crystals are open datasets, which is data that is freely available for the public to use. Specifically, the city of San Francisco provides a project called The Open Data Portal — a website that includes geo-located data sets ranging from incidents of crime to where all the parking meters are to construction permits. Other cities all over the country are embarking on similar open data projects.
The importance of open data is manyfold, with the obvious one of transparency. But for someone such as myself who constructs art objects with data, the difficulty has been getting access to rich datasets that are relatively easy to use. Over the next several years, data from the Open Data Portal will evolve into realtime datastreams with interfaces for public access. I expect to see an explosion of helpful apps and creative reuse of data.
I see data as sculptural material, like clay, plaster or steel. By using code to transform columns of numbers into 3D models, I call myself a “data miner,” where I extract data into small gems. I’m still experimenting with legibility and aesthetics. The primary question that drives this work is the question of “what does data look like?”