Who Is Looking At Your Data? Find Out At Somerset House: Review

Big Bang Data, Somerset House ★★★★★

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 102 months ago

Last Updated 19 January 2016

Who Is Looking At Your Data? Find Out At Somerset House: Review Big Bang Data, Somerset House 5
Data can be beautiful in its raw form. Installation image.

Do people realise who can see their selfies? What can data tell us about the future of London? Where does hacked data end up? These are some of the questions tackled in Somerset House's meaty exhibition on data and how it impacts our lives.

There is a tonne of stuff here that will scare, surprise and entrance viewers. A video shows that the internet isn't so intangible and dynamic, as servers whirr away inside concrete bunkers. Elsewhere a National Security Agency whistleblower and Edward Snowden talk about the terrifying levels of surveillance that the US and other governments have on their own citizens.

A program can take data from photographs of cats to determine where they live. This one is in Hackney. Copyright Owen Mundy

Access to data has its positive side in helping journalists discover major stories and open source sharing allowed for the construction of a cheap Geiger counter in the aftermath of Fukushima. Freely available information can also be used to make artworks and show that Londoners are some of the least happiest people — at least according to how often we smile in photographs.

One of the best installations is a control centre where visitors can alter the future of London by playing with parameters. We solved the housing crisis, but at the expense of driving businesses out of the city and causing a water shortage. It's fun to play around with, but we imagine all scenarios will have their downsides and there's no golden bullet here.

This is a fascinating, hands-on exhibition and it's particularly prescient in an age where most people, including us, are so relaxed about data privacy and sharing our personal lives with the world.

Big Bang Data is on at Somerset House until 20 March 2016. Tickets are £12.50 for adults, £9.50 concessions.