Can Disruptive Data Exist?

Manovitch (“The Database”) and Raley and the yearn for a disruptive artwork.┬áBoth scholars push for a Data-based artwork that does more than represent. Raley specifically mentions the way that Tactical Media can “disrupt” normal society.In the introduction of Tactical Media, she mentions hactivists shutting down or changing websites temporarily as an example of this – this example I understand. But some of her examples in the chapter of Speculative Capital do not seem disruptive to me. Black Shoals and ecosytem are provocative, fit into Manovitch’s specifications of a database, and successfully create a narrative of data through their visualizations – Black Shoals with the story of an economic universe and ecosystem with the progression of the birds movements and actions. Raley specifically mentions that these artworks are disruptive.

I don’t know about you; but when I imagine disrupting the stock market, I imagine a scene from the most recent Batman movie. Perhaps I am thinking of the word “disruptive” in too concrete terms but even when I try to conjure up ideas of how the artworks disrupt in abstract senses, I am unimpressed with my result.

  1. The artwork disrupts the viewer’s day. This greatly belittles the salient and serious subjects of the work.
  2. The artwork disrupts the stock market. Nope.
  3. The artwork disrupts our understanding of economics. Maybe?

I could see option 3 working out but I would argue that “disrupt” is not the right term here. Educate, perhaps is. In fact Raley actually speaks briefly about education, but doesn’t give it enough credit. And maybe educate is not the right word either, if you already have a good understanding of the way the economic world works. In that case, confronts is best. These works confront us with a new visualization that might make us think critically about capitalism and monetary standards. By making it immediately visual, it brings the ideas to the front of our minds – and I am nor sure if that is disruptive or not.