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Universe Masat, Data Visualisation Artwork

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Brigitta Zics, Pengfei Zhang


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This interactive artwork (iPad App) creates an imaginary universe that renders the secret life of the Masat-1 satellite that was launched into low Earth orbit on 13 February 2012. Orbiting around the Earth three times a day, the small cube sends nonstop telemetric data (e.g. temperature, voltage, location of data receivers) to a tracking centre revealing information not only about its own state but also about changes in the atmosphere. Using data visualisation method this work launches an ontological enquiry that hypothetically implies that user-observers can remotely reconstruct the life of this remote self-functioning object by reconfiguring its representations of data. The subtle visual variety of circles and their movement represents an ontology of the cube that construct a novel universe by collating time and space data of the satellite into the same visual dimension. With this Universe Masat creates a visual ecology and open system that renders a complex interdependency of visual objects that user-observers can continuously reorganise. This dynamic recreation of Masat’s universe is although based on real values it aims to go beyond a reductionist approach of the world by re-creating reality through an aesthetic emphasis. Data visualisations are one of the present-day solutions to the big data problem with the goal to discover new patterns and meanings by collating big number of data. In most cases this type of knowledge making merely focuses on efficient representation of a value. This artwork challenges this framework and aims to investigate (i) how novel aesthetic frameworks can be used to enhance our understanding of data and what it represent and (ii) how data visualisation method can be applied as an artistic inquiry that brings more comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon that it investigates. Universe Masat is an example of experimental data visualisation projects that based on the legacy of visual arts but generate a critical and philosophical query that aims to go beyond reductionist approach to reality. This project was introduced at Data is Beautiful Exhibition (2012) in Budapest and launched as an iPad app later in November 2013. It is a collaboration between Budapest University of Technology and Economics, and Newcastle University, Culture Lab. MASAT official web site:

Publication metadata

Author(s): Zics B, Zhang P

Publication type: Digital or Visual Media

Publication status: Published

Year: 2013

Publisher: Apple App Store / iTunes

Type: iPad App