Wesley Goatley
Associate (Sussex Digital Humanities Lab)


Data is an increasingly crucial component and reflection of modern softwarised society, generated and collected on a large scale (Crawford 2014). The need to establish critical practices in data analysis methods is crucial. In what has been called the post-digital present (Cascone 2000) there is no easily delineated cultural space where data is not collected, analysed and represented; equally, the separation between ‘online’ and ‘offline’ experience is increasingly hard to discern. Methods such as sonification and visualisation bestow spatial and temporal dimensions upon data, which in itself has no distinct physical form. Such methods can present new perspectives while revealing patterns and outlier results in data that may be otherwise be obscured.  However, data sets have inescapable politics and meaning embedded through their creation (Berry 2014, Drucker 2011, Rosenburg 2013). In using data aestheticisation methods, these political dimensions can be either obscured or misconstrued through decisions made in the aestheticisation process. This is problematic and risks the imposition of unintended meanings that may conflict with the aims of the analysis and misrepresent the data itself.

In response to this situation, Wesley’s doctoral research concerns the development of a theoretical and practical framework for the implementation of a ‘critical data aesthetics’ approach to data aestheticisation, and the deployment of these techniques in areas of practice and/or research.   He defines critical data aesthetics as a methodology that promotes the critically reflexive use of aestheticisation processes to present critical insights into data’s role in contemporary culture, such as analysing narratives of data’s objectivity and impartiality.  This process will encourage a critical analysis of both the role and politics of data’s use, and the practice of data aestheticisation.  This will be defined and explored through a reflexive experimental and critical practice that provokes and is informed by an ongoing theoretical interrogation of the developing methodology.



Cascone, K. (2000), The aesthetics of failure: Post-digital tendencies in contemporary computer music. Computer Music Journal, 24(4) [Online]. Available at: http://subsol.c3.hu/subsol_2/contributors3/casconetext.html (Accessed: 20 Jan 16).

Crawford, K. (2014) The Anxieties of big data. Available at: http://thenewinquiry.com/essays/the-anxieties-of-big-data/ (Accessed: 20 Jan 16).

Drucker, J. (2011) ‘Humanities Approaches to Graphic Display’, Digital Humanities Quarterly, 5 (11).

Rosenburg, D. (2013) ‘Data Before The Fact’, in Gitelman, L. (ed.) Raw Data Is An Oxymoron. Massachusetts: MIT Press.