Data Provocation

Project Leaders: Karin von Ompteda

Number of participants: 30

Duration: 5 days


This project is a 5-day immersion into data visualisation as a critical practice. Participants work in cross-programme groups to undertake interdisciplinary interrogations of global statistics (e.g. World DataBank). When data is made physical or beautiful, people often accept it as ‘truth’ – yet data is never neutral; it is collected, analysed, and presented for specific purposes. The brief: Create an object, installation, or experience that not only communicates data, but encourages a questioning of the data itself.

All projects are supported with a production budget, and the vast majority of workshop participants will come away with high caliber projects for their portfolio, with further opportunities for publication and press. Please note that no prior experience is necessary and everyone is welcome.

Iterations of Data Provocation were run successfully in 2014 and 2015, following four years of Critical Visualisation; a workshop with a strong record of popularity. Over the past six years, I have run 18 workshops in the UK, China, Belgium, and Canada, with students, the public, and professionals. This has resulted in an exciting body of work which has been presented and published internationally       (see links below).


Monday 31 October: Introduction                                                                    We will begin with an introduction to the workshop, including an opportunity for each participant to introduce themselves to the group. Monday will also include a lecture on data visualisation, a software tutorial, and an introduction to online open-access datasets. In the late afternoon, participants will have tea (cupcakes!), form their groups, and begin developing their project concepts.

Tuesday 1 November: Concept Development & Interim Crit                     Participants will continue to develop their concepts and present these in the afternoon at the interim crit. This is an informal chance for everyone to receive feedback on their ideas. At the end of the day, participants will visit each other’s studios across both RCA campuses.

Wednesday 2 – Friday 4 November: Production                                  Over the next few days everyone will work on their projects, using the various studios and workshops across (and outside) the College required for production, with the room assigned to Data Provocation, serving as our base.

Friday 4 November: Final Crit                                                                                 On Friday afternoon we will hold the final crit, where all groups will present their projects – afterward we’ll go to the ArtBar and/or Halloween party.

Follow-up Activity:

The main follow-up activity for the participants will be to have their work professionally photographed and promoted internationally. The 2015 students exhibited their work in RCA’s Courtyard Galleries, and I would like to arrange for another exhibition in 2016.

Leader Biography:

Karin von Ompteda is a biologist turned designer, researcher, and educator, currently a PhD Candidate in Visual Communication at RCA and an Assistant Professor (tenure-track) at OCAD University in Canada. She has taught data ‘manifestation’ workshops internationally for six years and was previously a Visiting Lecturer in the Information Experience Design programme at RCA. Karin currently writes and lectures on data manifestation; highlights include being a panelist on BBC’s The Forum,  talks and workshops for Arts Council England, the Information Design Association UK, and the China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA). Recent publications have included a paper in IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, and an essay entitled ‘Data Manifestation’ for the upcoming Graphic Design Reader (Bloomsbury Press), edited by Teal Triggs and Leslie Atzmon. Clients have included BBC Research & Development, Brody Associates, and Transport for London.


DataSpace                                                                                                                                 (I ran this project within RCA Information Experience Design)

PhysicSpace                                                                                                                             (I ran this project within RCA Information Experience Design)

BBC World Service (2014), ‘Big Data and Us’, The Forum

Von Ompteda, K. and Walker, K. (2015), ‘Translating the Quantum World to Human Scale: An Art-Science Collaboration’, IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, 35(3): 74-81.

Von Ompteda, K. (2016), ‘Data Manifestation’, in T. Triggs and L. Atzmon (eds), The Graphic Design Reader, London: Bloomsbury Press.