Form And Big Data Week

FORM is participating in Big Data Week, from a distinctly ‘art-centric’ point of view. Join us for two events, ‘Big Culture’ and ‘Art Data’, to discuss issues of intangible cultural heritage in the digital realm, and the uneasy relationship between art and data.

Art Exhibition previously on at FORM Building a State of Creativity in Western Australia, Australia.
From Friday 24 April 2015 to Friday 24 April 2015

Form And Big Data Week image

Published by FORM on Tuesday 24 March 2015.
Contact the publisher.


Mira (Martu Wangka): to bring something hidden into the light.

Mira: Canning Stock Route Project Archive represents the culmination of FORM’s award-winning Canning Stock Route Project. The archive is being developed by FORM and the Centre for Digital Archaeology at UC Berkeley (CoDA), and is based on CoDA’s Mukurtu CMS, a free web open source platform for managing and sharing digital cultural heritage, built especially for Indigenous communities, libraries, and archives. The term ‘big culture’ has been coined especially for this presentation, as it speaks to the enormity of the task of digitising and archiving the world’s intangible cultural heritage.

This presentation will deal with a smaller, more pragmatic issue, which is that once intangible cultural material becomes data, a number of ethical issues emerge. Working in partnership with the Arts Law Centre of Australia through its Artists in the Black program and Herbert Smith Freehills, FORM has developed an extensive best practice framework of agreements to protect the Indigenous Cultural Intellectual Property (ICIP) and copyright of Aboriginal participants.

The process of developing Mira has involved retrospectively adding metadata to over 40,000 items of unique cultural content, and this process has raised a number of ongoing research questions that FORM continues to engage with as we develop new projects in this area. These include:

What ethical issues emerge once intangible cultural materials become data? How, and in what ways, does embedding these cultural materials with metadata add value?
What is the relationship between Indigenous cultural production, ICIP, data, and metadata? What responsibilities do humanities and arts organisations have to archive Indigenous cultural production in the most secure way possible, both for the present and for future generations?
More broadly, what knowledge-sharing is possible between those working in the arts and those working purely with data surrounding questions of data and value?
Join us at FORM Gallery, 357 Murray Street, Perth, on Friday 24th April, 3-4:30pm for a presentation by Mollie Hewitt and Travis Kelleher on the process of building Mira followed by an open discussion of the issues mentioned above. Light refreshments will be provided.


When we talk about data, especially ‘big data’, it’s fair to say that we think of science and computing rather than the arts, which commonly refuse to conform to quantitative methods of storage and understanding. The arts and humanities often seem inherently resistant to being reduced to the quantitative, existing in a qualitative realm where only rich prose descriptions can really take account of them.

And yet, there are a number of reasons for thinking about the arts in terms of ‘big data’. Gartner’s ‘3Vs’—volume, velocity, and variety—seem apt when we consider the sheer amount of data that an arts institution produces, and even more apt when we think of culture as a whole.

The concerns of those who manage data – enabling data discovery and retrieval, adding value through metadata, and ensuring re-use over time – are neatly packaged by the term ‘data curation’, suggesting those in the arts may have much to add to the field of data management.

These are large questions, and we are only at the beginning of knowing how to answer them. This round table will focus on some issues that are more contained and able to construct a benchmark for further work and discussion. These are:

To what extent does the data that art produces (such as documentation, media, public responses, all of which have cultural value) hold value to the organizations that produce it, and the broader cultural sector?

How does art data differ and require different handling to the data of other disciplines?
To what extent are arts organizations managing data responsible for the development and maintenance of a national cultural archive?

What possibilities exist for a data management system in the arts that is truly open and sharable with both the general public and other arts institutions, and what would be the value of such a system?

What is the current state of discourse about the ethics of managing art data, who it belongs to, and who has the right to access it?

Join Mollie Hewitt and Travis Kelleher at the Pawsey Centre, Burvill Ct, Kensington, 6151 next to the ARRC building, on Thursday 23rd April, 3 – 4:30pm for a short presentation and then a roundtable discussion of the issues mentioned above. Light refreshments will be provided. Please RSVP at