Dust Clouds

Our work DUST uses virtual reality to represent and investigate the invisible sphere of urban particulate matter. We give representation to the recent developments of open data and citizen science and chip away at popular incognizance of just how much dust, and now data may impact our private lives.

Dust is Data – Data is Dust

It is estimated that one human life is lost every 8 seconds due to exposure to dust. The adverse effects of exposure to ever increasing amounts of data are still not known. Particulate matter, also known as airborne dust, is universally familiar. Volcanic ashes, sandstorms, forest fires, construction residue, vehicle and industrial emissions are among the largest contributors today, but the origins of the planet, all known species and the universe itself derive from dust borne by interstellar dust clouds.

Data Clouds

The singularity and omnipresence of dust is no longer unrivaled. In the new world, interstellar dust clouds may be overshadowed by virtual data clouds. Data has become the new essential building block. Much like dust, data is amorphous: sometimes filtered, sometimes free flowing. Like dust, data passes through us and all around us.

Sensors and Sovereignty

People have long understood dust may be harmful and have sought to avoid undue exposure. But until recently the definition and monitoring of the threat level depended on governments and institutions and the biases they bring to their assessment of costs and benefits.

Curiously, data now empowers people to do their own cost-benefit analysis: individuals can carry out environmental tests privately with low cost sensors and distribute the results on the internet, bringing about a culture of “citizen science”. Our work DUST enables viewers to experience virtual exposure to microscopic matter suspended in the atmosphere.

The outer panels of the triptych display a map with realtime environmental data metrics such as air pollution, traffic density and radioactivity levels. A virtual reality head mounted display allows the viewer to visit the sites.

Vast amounts of data are not comprehensive as the majority of people don’t know how to apply such data and either wouldn’t have the time or inclination to use it. Therefore we aim to establish an open platform for monitoring, experiencing and communicating environmental data as meaningful information. Many of us will produce, curate and consume such data in the very near future, promoting democratic benefits such as education, transparency and civic engagement.