International cat pictures and a map of the internet – designers visualise big data

Artists and designers including Morag Myerscough, Stefanie Posavec and Thomson & Craighead visualise big data for an upcoming Somerset House exhibition.

I Know Where Your Cat Lives, Hackney, 2015
I Know Where Your Cat Lives, Hackney, 2015

An upcoming exhibition at London’s Somerset House will look at how designers are visualising the “big data explosion” of the 21st century, through a series of newly commissioned and rarely seen pieces.

Big data is a term used to describe data sets that are too large or complex for traditional data processing mechanisms to make sense of.

Governments and other organisations are increasingly looking to use big data as new technologies enable them to look through and make sense of the reams of information.

Endlessly producing data

Somerset House says: Today the world contains an unimaginably vast amount of data which is getting ever bigger, ever more quickly. We are all endlessly producing and releasing data, whether passively as our daily lives are recorded by cameras, telephone calls and card payments, or by actively engaging in social media and searching the internet.

“As a result, data stories are increasingly at the forefront of the global news agenda, from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and whistleblower Edward Snowden to the recent celebrity iCloud and Ashley Madison hacking scandals.”

The exhibition sees a range of designers tackling issues around big data in different ways.

Tweets become posters

For their London Wall piece, at the gallery entrance, artists Thomson & Craighead will intercept publicly available Tweets and status updates from within a one-mile radius of Somerset House and present them as posters on the gallery walls.

Morag Myerscough has created a “TeleGeography” map, which details all the subterranean communications cables and their landing stations around the world – a bid to showcase the hidden infrastructure of data.

Lisa Jevbrett’s 1999 artwork 1:1 – one of the first known visualisations of the World Wide Web – will be on show in a section dedicated to the field of data visualisation.

An international map of cat pictures

Other works on show will include Stefanie Posavec and Giorgia Lupi’s Dear Data project, which saw London-based Posavec and New York-based Lupi collect and share data about their lives, and Owen Mundy’s I Know Where Your Cat Lives – a map of locations of cats around the world based on metadata embedded into publicly available photos tagged with the word “cat”.

For the exhibition’s centrepiece, Future Cities Catapult and Tekja are creating “London Situation Room”, a “lair-style” studio that will screen real-time data collected from around the capital.


Big Bang Data is at Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R, from 3 December 2015-28 February 2016.

I Know Where Your Cat Lives, Dubai, 2014
I Know Where Your Cat Lives, Dubai, 2014
1-1, 1999 © Lisa Jevbratt
1-1, 1999 © Lisa Jevbratt
selfiecity hashtag map © selfiecity.net
selfiecity hashtag map © selfiecity.net
selfiecity chart © selfiecity.net
selfiecity chart © selfiecity.net
selfiecity collage © selfiecity.net
selfiecity collage © selfiecity.net
We Need Us, Cell Slider © Julie Freeman
We Need Us, Cell Slider © Julie Freeman
Dear Data, Week 38 © Giorgia Lupi
Dear Data, Week 38 © Giorgia Lupi
Timo Arnall, Internet Machine, 2014 © Timo Arnall
Timo Arnall, Internet Machine, 2014 © Timo Arnall

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