Quantified Humanists - Final Project Proposal

04 01 2019

Final Project Proposal - “Growing Data Doubles”: Link to Assignment

The core concept of my current idea is to create a video sculpture which visualizes autonomous, bacteria like creatures whose size, number and activity are all determined by realtime info being used to create data doubles of myself.

Background Research:

The idea for my final project grew out of the way data doubles (and their autonomy from the human user they are based on) are discussed in the article “Visualized and Interacted Life: Personal Analytics and Engagements with Data Doubles” by Minna Ruckenstein. While this isn’t the main focus of the paper, she discusses the process of “making” data doubles through gathering unique personal data streams and then “reassembling” them into data doubles which “can be reflected on and used for various purposes”. I find this idea of assembling a new version of yourself through data to be both fascinating and terrifying.


Additionally, the leaked Google video “The Selfish Ledger” discusses the hypothetical ways in which ones personal data, or “ledger” could live on after them, taking on a life of its own as it shapes the path of humanity across generations. I am interested in embracing this idea of creating autonomous agents from my data.


I was also artistically inspired by the work of the artist Ian Cheng and his autonomous A.I. creatures, especially his installation B.O.B. which is a digital being that is essentially autonomous, choosing just occasionally to engage with visitors to the exhibit.


Definition of Questions:

Based on my research and inspirations I am interested in exploring what it could look like to create a new version of myself based just on the data about me available on the internet, or possibly even more interestingly from a single company. Subsequently, could this visualization prompt a reexamination by viewers of the real significance of all that information being congregated in a meaningful way?



The tangible goal for this project is to create a video sculpture with a biotech/ medical form factor. I am imagining a tray of petri dishes with a screen showing through the bottom of each one. On each screen will be a live sketch containing simple swimming creatures that are generated and grow based on the data collected about me through various sources, thus each dish or creature will represent a small data double of me being grown in real time.


The goal of this project is to create something both beautiful and lighthearted, but with a core meaning that when considered more thoughtfully could lead to a greater awareness and understanding of the full power of our uncontrolled data doubles out in the world.