Exhibition: NaN - Not a Number

In computing, NaN, standing for not a number, is a numeric data type value representing an undefined or unrepresentable value (Wikipedia). In many ways, data is meant to represent often unrepresentable features about the spaces, places, and people around us. This presents us with a problem - how are the fundamentally unquantifiable things, the things that should otherwise return a computational error statement - the NaN - actually being assigned numerical values that affect life in the city?

Our theme this year is “Not a Number” to speak to the ways in which space and place are being transformed and shaped by the numbers that are meant to represent complexity in the everyday. We ask our artists to reflect on the stories within our city’s open data that speak to the undefined or unrepresentable value of the things that the data may be hiding.

2019 Artists

Interested to be be commissioned for DTD'19? Submit a proposal!

We are proud to present the work of the following artists. Our artists come from backgrounds ranging from fine arts, engineering, urban planning, and more.

Projects We Love

This year's Data Through Design Theme, NaN - Not a Number - invites artists and creators to help tell the untold stories of NYC's open data. How might data illuminate as much as complicate our understanding of the social, cultural, and environmental processes that NYC's open data speak to? Below you'll find some projects that seek to create new discussions about the ways that data reflects or misrepresents the people and places around us. NOTE: We hope this list is inspiring!

  • The Library of Missing Datasets: An ongoing physical repository of things that have been excluded in a society where so much is collected.
  • Dust: Our cities are full of fine dust and are struggling with the phenomenon of microscopic particles. We can not detect fine dust with the naked eye. Although electronic sensors provide accurate measurement data, the numbers and units of measurement remain abstract for us. Dietmar Offenhuber’s “dust mark” makes the particulate matter pollution in Stuttgart visible and tangible, using the technique of reverse graffiti.
  • Canners: There is no accurate data on the activity of canning, but people involved in the sector claim that more than 10,000 people pick up empty cans on the streets of New York to make some money. We mapped the experience of eight of them.
  • Simulated Dendrochronology of U.S. immigration: The United States can be envisioned as a tree, with shapes and growing patterns influenced by immigration. The nation, the tree, is hundred years old, and its cells are made out of immigrants. As time passes, they are deposited in decennial rings that capture waves of immigration.
  • Herald / Harbinger: Herald / Harbinger incorporates a collection of data feeds to illustrate the interrelationship between human activity in Calgary and the natural system of the Bow Glacier in the Canadian Rockies, which exists in a perpetual state of physical transformation.
  • Mapping Geotagged Photos in Public Spaces: For any city, thousands of geotagged photos are available online. The project maps these photos in the places where they were taken..

Looking for last year's work? Examples of artist work from Data Through Design 2018 can be seen here.

Looking for Data?

Data Through Design prompts the creative community to look into NYC's open data. Below we've curated a shortlist of datasets artists might be interested in exploring.

  • NYC Street Trees: Street tree data from the TreesCount! 2015 Street Tree Census, conducted by volunteers and staff organized by NYC Parks & Recreation and partner organizations. Tree data collected includes tree species, diameter and perception of health. Accompanying blockface data is available indicating status of data collection and data release citywide.
  • MTA Data: Information pertaining to MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York) subways, buses, commuter rail, bridges, and tunnels. See MTA API registration.
  • NYC Parking and Camera Violations: NYC's Parking Violations.
  • Art in DOE buildings: List of art, artist, medium and DOE building that the art is located in schools.
  • Water Consumption And Cost (2013 - June 2018): Monthly consumption and cost data by borough and development. Data set includes utility vendor and meter information.
  • Sea Level Rise Maps (2020s 100-year Floodplain): This is the 100-Year Floodplain for the 2020s based on FEMA's Preliminary Work Map data and the New York Panel on Climate Change's 90th Percentile Projects for Sea-Level Rise (11 inches). Please see the Disclaimer PDF for more information. Data Provided by the Mayor's Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability (OLTPS) on behalf of CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities (CISC) and the New York Panel on Climate Change (NPCC).
  • Inventory of New York City Greenhouse Gas Emissions - Citywide GHG Emissions Summary (2016): Inventory of New York City Greenhouse Gas Emissions - Citywide GHG Emissions Summary (2016).

Helpful References and Data How-Tos

A general rule of thumb of working with data is that 80% of your time will be spent preparing your data to be used for analysis/visualization/materialization. Data preparation -- cleaning, munging, reformating, parsing, filtering, etc -- can be a real "can of worms", which is to say, that it can be tricky even for experts. Below you'll find some handy links and references that might help you along your data handling, analysis, and visualization journies:

  • Beta NYC - Open Data 101: Fundamentals of NYC Open Data.
  • DATA2GO.NYC: DATA2GO.NYC is a free, easy-to-use online mapping and data tool created by the nonprofit Measure of America of the Social Science Research Council with funding from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. It brings together for the first time federal, state, and city data on a broad range of issues critical to the well-being of all New Yorkers.
  • Open Data NYC How To: A Getting Started With Open Data Guide by the NYC Open Data.

Exhibition 2019

Images and video from opening night and project documentation.