Digital Hub shines a light on Dublin’s social media in laser art project

21 Jan 2022

Caroline Viguier of the Digital Hub and artist Robin Price. Image: Digital Hub

The laser light project interprets social media posts and projects them onto the St Patrick’s Tower to explore our relationship with data.

The Digital Hub has commissioned a unique art project at the St Patrick’s Tower in Dublin, using laser projections to explore our relationship with social media and data.

Created by artist and inventor Robin Price, the installation is called ‘Do Algorithms Dream of Electronic Shapes?’ It aims to explore our complex relationship with technology and how people share their lives through social media. It also looks to question the back-and-forth effect of algorithms and society.

Future Human

The title of the project, which is part of The Digital Hub’s involvement in health and wellbeing initiative Smart D8, is a play on the book ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ by Philip K Dick. Similar to the book’s examination of androids, this project asks what Dublin’s servers and data centres would think of us, if they really were intelligent and alive.

To answer this, a random selection of social media posts from Dublin will be taken and fed through an artificial intelligence system. The project will then draw out interpretations, or “digital dreams”, of these posts at night using laser light projected onto St Patrick’s Tower.

The art project will display up to 1,500 images each night and will run for seven weeks until Sunday 6 March.

Fiach Mac Conghail, CEO of The Digital Hub, said the challenge and tensions of data and privacy in “our increasingly online world” is an important topic. He hopes the art project can visualise that conversation and “spark discussion around how we use social media and its effect on us”.

Speaking on his art project, Price said: “The air around us is alive with the invisible data that powers Dublin 8’s present industries. Everything from sensors to smart phones wirelessly beam all sorts of data from both humans and machines, personal and public, back and forth from the Wi-Fi access points and cell towers that are the new windmills.

“I hope that viewers are excited to see how what appears as a chaos of binary pulses of laser light projected on the side of the tower reconstructs as meaningful images inside the camera’s electronic eye.”

Price is known for making unique and innovative art pieces. In 2019, he launched a three-day experiment in Derry called Drawing on the Walls, where people were invited to draw with their fingers on a custom iPad app that displayed their illustration in real time using laser light on the side of the Centre for Contemporary Art.

The Digital Hub Development Agency (DHDA) was established by the Government in 2003 with a mandate to attract high-growth technology and IT companies to Dublin 8. Its city centre campus has provided a base for more than 400 companies since then, including Slack, Stripe and Havok.

Last April, the Government made the decision to dissolve the DHDA. At the time, the Digital Hub campus was home to about 30 companies. However in November 2021, an agreement was reached that will see the hub remain open to digital and media businesses beyond June 2022, pending a redevelopment.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic