One of our 2015 volunteers Rachael Carney had a quick chat with some of our Global FUTR Lab and Apps for Europe participants during the first day of FutureEverything.

Technology has revolutionised data; its now easier to collect, record and view it than ever before. In keeping with the twenty year anniversary of FutureEverything, the developers and creatives in the Project Exhibition Space, Room 5, had each used data to create playful, innovative solutions. Their ideas address the new issues we have with data; from a lack of accessible data twenty years ago, we now have vast amounts of it and this has created new and interesting problems with issues of memory, democracy and ownership.

Memory was one of the motivations for Adebayo Adegbembo’s collection of interactive African culture teaching apps and videos. In his native Nigeria, and further afield, he noted a lack of African stories and characters in media aimed at children. Folk tales and stories were no longer being passed down from generation to generation and that meant children were no longer aware of the rich cultural heritage that surrounded them. The long-established oral tradition was being replaced by visual and written culture which favoured westernized cartoons and characters. In response to this, ASA’s Genii games have created characters, stories and games based on traditional folk tales, illustrated with bright, colourful and quality graphics. The apps are educational and fun with the aim of language learning and keeping the traditional stories alive.

Democracy was a theme that linked the many transport apps in room five; and each collective had a different way of dealing with similar problems. Sam Maloney put it best when he described his urban transportation app Allryder, which aggregates data from many different sources using public transport. The app exists “to save people the excruciating pain of downloading six or seven applications just to get somewhere”.  This was echoed by Metrobus/Metetonbus, whose passenger guidance system is a great example of how information has become democratic. They are currently solving the problem of how to combine different datasets from different bus companies in order to create a system that benefits the passenger and eases congestion on the roads.

Plumelabs have benefited from the democratisation of data by taking open data provided by governments and councils and creating an app that gives you up to the minute information on air quality. Air pollution is now a bigger global killer than smoking or obesity and it diminishes life expectancy in Manchester by three months. As Anton explained, Plumelabs is designed for ordinary people and offers advice on every day activities such the cleanest route for cycling to work or the least polluted time to walk the dog. Currently in development is a wearable device that measures air quality and uploads data, the goal being to build the biggest air quality map in the world.

Salem Al-Mansoori was exploring ownership with his data visualisations and art installations. Salem encourages us to think about data in a more creative way; “One of the most interesting things I’ve learnt about data is that it is also an aesthetic thing, so its not just boring stuff, you can also make artwork and visually interesting pieces”.

Addressing the issues of our own personal data and who owns it, Salem continued;

“Big data is superhyped as a commercial thing for big corporations but it can also be personal, it can be humane, it can even be a form of activism. The more personal it is , the better”

We are becoming ever more aware of our online selves and how corporations use the data we create. Perhaps it is now time to value our data, take it back and use it for ourselves.