Nathaniel Tkacz – Dashboards and Data Signals

On Wednesday 8th October 2014, Nathaniel Tkacz visited the Programmable City Project and delivered a seminar on “Dashboards and Data Signals”. Nathaniel is Assistant Professor in CIM at The University of Warwick. He is currently Principal Investigator for the ESRC-funded project ‘Interrogating the Dashboard’. He is author or editor of Wikipedia and The Politics of Openness, The MoneyLab Reader (forthcoming 2015), Digital Light (forthcoming 2014) and Critical Point of View: A Wikipedia Reader.

On dashboards and data signals, Nathaniel summarised his discussion as: Screen interfaces that aggregate and visualise flows of data, namely, dashboards, are greatly increasing in number and function. They coincide with the heightened interest in information visualisation and massive claims about the transformative power of big data. David Cameron has a bespoke dashboard, as does US Federal Reserve Chair, Janet Yellen. For the rest of us, there are a range of dashboard apps available from Apple or Google’s respective markets. The control screens one would expect to see in a Bloomberg Terminal, flight control tower or security operation – that is, in strategic and logistical spaces – is today becoming generalised and individualised. As is true of all interfaces, a dashboard is a relation. It is a relation of control, to be sure, and one that equally reflects a desire for control among the ‘data deluge’ as much as it does its achievement. But a closer look at the dashboard reveals much more than the proliferation of control. It can tell us, for example, about the changing nature of indicators, the everyday experience of data-driven life, and emerging forms of rationality, and it is these things that I will explore in this presentation.

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