Designing Knowledge

Curated by: Lily Díaz-Kommonen and Tania Rodríguez-Kaarto

Exhibition Opening: November 2017

Submission Information:

Beyond this insight, during the 20th and early 21st centuries the use of new (computer-fueled and digitally structured) media ushered in a basic transformation in human communications that allowed new ways to present, perceive and interact with knowledge itself. Among the new information formats to emerge were digital repositories and archives organized around particular themes or simply designed to document the activities of artistic and scientific research projects. We think that these archives are indelible proof of a distinct multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary ethos that permeates new media culture.

In this context, the 2017 ACMSIGGRAPH Digital Arts Community online exhibition – Designing Knowledge – seeks to showcase online digital repositories and archives that make use of new media, art and design, and computer graphics in order to enable the creation, dissemination and preservation of new knowledge landscapes in areas such as archeology, anthropology, art history, cultural heritage, all areas of geography, cartography, information and library studies, history, literary studies and museology. We would like to showcase novel treatments of data and implementation of concepts such as cultural analytics that illustrate new knowledge frameworks as in digital humanities (including tangible and intangible representations of heritage); digital heritage (including online artifact exhibitions from science, art and the humanities) and quantified self (or “self knowledge through numbers”, and including genome data, neurodata, and performance data).

What capabilities does the new media and computation afford these electronic knowledge forms? For example, How are techniques such as interactive visualization, responsive design, and crowdsourcing being used to promote new ways of creating accessing and structuring content? How are the combinations of diverse fields through multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary methods and ways of working reshaping the fields of knowledge and the boundaries between them?

The exhibition is open to practitioners and scholars in the arts, humanities and sciences who are interested in showcasing work that illuminates how the new media both promotes and enables new modes of thinking and doing. We seek to explore whether the condensation and concentration of information of diverse disciplines in such information depots is helping to spawn new theories and ways of thinking as well as new practices and ways of doing constructing artifacts that allow us to experience the knowledge of these domains differently. We also seek to promote a better understanding of the role that art and design might play in the creation of such devices.


The works presented for inclusion will be gathered through an open call followed by an evaluation process carried out by a team of international advisors. In order to complement our sample, we also intend to survey the ACMSIGGRAPH archives, as well as tender invitations through our networks.


In order to be considered for inclusion, works should be submitted using the following guidelines:

  1. Uniqueness An abstract between 300–500 words explaining the most important conceptual aspects which differentiate and identify your work as unique. The submission should explain how the new media and computer graphics technology are brought together through online resource development to promote new ways of thinking and doing things in the disciplines mentioned above. The abstract should be descriptive and include the title of the work, the author(s) name, date of completion, contact information and the primary reasons for undertaking this endeavor.Metadata: At least ten key index terms (tagwords) describing the contents of the work must be included in a separate paragraph.
  2. Knowledge and activity A short (no longer than 3:00 minutes) video documentary or storyboard in MPEG4 format explaining how the artifact (digital archive) is used in activities that involve the creation, dissemination, transformation, and sharing of knowledge should accompany the documentation. The documentary should include a title screen with the name of the author(s) identify the knowledge fields, activities and processes engaged as well as the outcomes produced.
  3. About the work Three to five images of at least 1000 pixels in width in JPG format. Of these images one must be dedicated to displaying the submitted work’s information architecture or schematic model, depicting the systemic organization and contents (boundaries) of the digital artifact. This model should show the link(s) and relations between the different parts and provide a description of the input (raw) data, the tools used to process it, the possible modes of interaction with the data itself and the knowledge resulting from such exchanges.
  4. About the author(s) A short (250 words) biography about the author(s) and people involved in the making and (or) using the work.


The collection of works presented in this exhibition comprises objects that come to be as result of, or through information processing and knowledge making practices. They are exemplars of the intensified use of electronic media processing that has brought information into the level of being a key exchange value on a planetary scale. Within the myriad details in our everyday life, including the affective, the biological, the educational, the social and the political among others, information crafting – that is the ‘working on’, the ‘thinging’, or objectification, the form-giving, and reification into knowledge artifacts and infrastructures now inheres in every human production activity, from the scientific to humanistic and the artistic.



As placeholder electronic repositories such as the ones presented here play a key role both structuring and instantiating imaginative activities involved in information and knowledge production. In these constellations, complex tools are utilized to sift, separate and re-assemble the diverse components. Establishing distinction and similarities elements are re-imagined according to hierarchical levels such as those exemplified by tree-like configurations (Lima). They are gathered and classified into neat adjacent box-like structures and placed horizontally and vertically into matrices to reveal boundaries and intersections (Bertin). Or even assembled contiguously as networked tentacles forging ahead through electronic space (Moretti).

They coalesce and become reified in information repositories and online archives often bearing their own systemic and ecological configuration. They are objects of design. Or concretized virtual constructions that once in operation recede to the background: As we peruse through them, engage in our human practices with them, they both adapt to and influence our perception. Marc Lee’s 10.000 Moving Cities – Same but Different enables us to move through virtual worlds resulting from others perceptions and imaging practices. A diagrammatic rendition or virtual framework of a city is used as contact point to (re)locate and project images posted by others in social networks such as Youtube, Flicker and Twitter. The interactive journeys accomplished using a head mount display and wireless controllers provide image and sound collages of local, cultural and linguistic differences and similarities.

Information itself however, is not to be conflated with knowledge. As Gitelman has noted, knowledge is not static but rather dynamic. Partly the result of processes involved in our searching and apprehending the world, information is created relationally and through engagement. Knowledge involves people, artifacts and institutions coming together, interconnecting in complex ways for the sake of further instantiation, maintenance, preservation and dissemination. This can be examined in the Invisible Spotproject where the new, as in electron microscope photography used to penetrate into the core of matter, is combined with the distant, as in the centuries old Korean paper-making tradition of Hanji where individual sheets of paper are made from the inner bark of the dak tree[1]. The works reveal imagined virtual sites of nature. The artworks produced in this manner are displayed in the traditional manner of two-dimensional photography works depicting places that because of their contingency, are both nowhere and everywhere.


From historical preservation and dissemination to interactive visualizations of art, history to discourse analysis and information processing, the works presented deal with the structuring of knowledge in such way to enable diverse viewpoints. From this perspective we have the Sefaria archive an online open source and Creative Commons oriented work that situated firmly in the textual tradition of Jewish learning through the Talmud–the ancient meaning of the term is ‘to teach’, ‘to study’–focuses on interconnectedness of the texts and the polyvocality (as in multiple voices) of co-presentation. Sefaria makes use of a diversity of statistical analysis methods and information graphics formats to present this polyvocality to its audience. The materiality of information is palpable in its metaphoric use of paper sheets: Educators using Sefaria follow the ancient tradition of annotation to add commentaries to the main texts of the Talmud. They create electronic sheets to gather their materials. These sheets can be shared and published, thus providing glimpses regarding the topics of interest and discussion in the diverse user communities engaged with Sefaria.

RothkoViz brings together a sample of 201 paintings by Latvian born and American grown artist Mark Rothko. As least 50 properties, such as shape form and the use of color by the artist are examined using statistical analyses and the perspectives of different spatial configurations affordable through computer graphics. A 2D polar plot for example, allows one to appreciate the differences in Rothko’s use of color from his early works in the 1920s to his last works in the 1970s. The circular shapes of the plot remind one of the tree rings examined in dendrochronology. Perhaps each of the paintings is a ring that stands as one observation event in Rothko’s life.

Location-based data and details of a life in transit empowered the author of Tracking Transience. Here the quantification of the things we do, of where we go, and what we eat became a logbook where life happenings were pieced together and catalogued into different databases that accurately profiled its author. Contrary to reasonable logic, the methodical, incisive and all-encompassing exposition accessible through the mapping of one’s own life granted the artist Elahi Hasan an “anonymous and private life”, giving way to a new way of perceiving information and its real value. Among the questions emerging from this work are: What roles do individuals and communities assume in memory making and forgetting? How are these roles related to ongoing societal challenges?

In this undertaking of information crafting Mapping LGBTQ St. Louis digitally charts space and sexual segregation between 1945-1992, evidencing the interrelationship between metropolitan spaces, gender and ethnicity through policies, violence and colliding socioeconomic facts. Combining archival documents and GIS data it unveils the intricacies of race and sexuality shedding light to its socially constructed codings and continuously evolving subtleties. Mapping LGBTQ St. Louis weaves an alternative view nurtured by the communities’ participation reflecting the power of institutional discourses over human sexuality, how and where they connect and lose each other.


Visualizations about mythology, cosmology, heritage, art, music and science combined with information technology and user generated content conjure redesigned representations of unique personal and shared experiences. It is through interaction and participation—topics at the center of many of the works showcased here—that data is harvested to uncover trends and hidden patterns that are a consequence of our interactions and also shape our behaviour. The diaspora of shareable scripts that bring organisms to life, which are sensitive to the surroundings and our movements make Living Mandala a representation of how historical, cultural and scientific imagery intertwine with real-time data giving form to our perceptions of life and of the universe.

Complexity is an implicit undercurrent in the Designing Knowledge exhibition and a common thread across the works here compiled—in terms of how they introduce the most comprehensive representations of something and simultaneously deal with constant change—. Such is the case of Massive is light where through the use of two platforms (Debate Inside and Faveeo) Big Data and personalized information flow are challenged by the development of new tools meant to deal visually with information overflow and complexity by the drafting new visual language guidelines extracted from the user’s gestures, and behavior and in turn having the users contribute to the architecture of infographic tools. In a similar way Aesthetics of Two Worlds aims to show us how aesthetics can be evoked in the statistical processes involved in big data manipulation.

In the quest for uniqueness and innovative ‘form-giving’, works such as Music Skylinecompare two sets of sound data, to create a city skyline style visualization of Sergei Rachmaninov’s piano concerto No.2 Op.18 by two different interpreters. It makes a comparison of two sets of unique musical tracks with their own characteristics that like fingerprints are unique to each player, in turn, each players’ score creates a unique skyline visualization of their interpretation just as unique as a city’s skyline.


Curating or gathering a collection is also another form of information crafting. The term collection refers to a set whose elements have been arranged according to a particular order or following certain conceptual principles. Our objective in organizing this exhibition has been to engage in the type of relational thinking that philosophers such Karen Barad have described. Thus, the exhibition opens up to a page that shows the different works plotted on a Self-Organizing Map, SOM map. An algorithm and also (in our view) an information graphic representation, SOM is based on artificial neural networks (ANN) technology. The SOM algorithm was invented by Teuvo Kohonen a Finnish scientist who claimed that the SOM is similar to the map of the brain which represents the spatial data of the electrical neuron responses.

Our work with SOM focuses primarily on the creative use of this technology.[2] For this iteration the map allows us to visualize interrelations between the different projects included in the exhibition. Metadata submitted with each of the works was used to create a ‘soft ontology’ of the collection (Avilés Collao et al.). Subsequent to this, properties from this ontology were assigned to each of the artefacts in the exhibition. Encoding the data to yield the SOM map was done using the SOM Tool created by Hung Han Chen and the Systems of Representation research group.[3]

Engaging with our SOM map shows how pressing the Science tag displays the Invisible Spot, Living Mandala and the Music Skyline works. Indeed, Jin Wan Park, describes himself as an artist and scientist engaging in new forms of artistic expression “only possible through scientific research”. The thought that comes to mind is whether it would be possible to also do science through art?

Aside from being data repositories, the project’s themselves can be regarded as advanced information processing artefacts. Data is obtained by deploying strategies according to a series of criteria and it is processed and converted (transduced) into something new. Among the diverse procedures used to achieve the transformation Selfiecity’s use of Mechanical Turk to assemble data and Mapping LGBTQ St. Louis data gathering as act of remembrance of human rights struggles stand out in a Romantic juxtaposition: In the 21st century, cities such as Bangkok, Berlin, Moscow, New York, and Sao Paulo (the cities included in Selfiecity) are not just physical sites where decaying infrastructures meet virtual marketplaces with questionable labour practices. They are also habitats with places that gather human histories. Thus, Mapping LGBTQ St Louis’ shows us the site of the 1986 protest organized by Women Rising in Resistance, or the location where Moonstorm, a lesbian newspaper that flourished during the years 1973–1983, was printed. And the 82% smiling females in Moscow compared to the 52% in Bangkok of Selfiecity ushers an insightful moment when we can imagine–as well as regard–their fleeting gestures.


Electronic repositories like the ones showcased here, are now an important part of how knowledge is constructed in the age of Big Data. They assist our sense-making of the abundant and readily amount of information that sometimes hinders our understanding. As objects of design, these information artefacts, are and will become essential building blocks with which we constantly reconfigure the world and design knowledge.

  • Aviles Collao, Jazmin, Diaz-Kommonen, Lily, Kaipainen, Mauri, Pietarila, Janne, “Soft Ontologies and Similarity Cluster Tools to facilitate Exploration and Discovery of Cultural Heritage Resources”, in Proceedings of DEXA 2003, 1-5 September 2003, Prague Czech Republic, IEEE Computer Society Digital Library, pp. 75–79.
  • Bertin, Jacques, Semiology of Graphics. Diagrams, Networks, Maps, (Redlands, CA: Esri Press, 2011).
  • Chen, Hung-Han, SOM Tool,, (Accessed 19 April 2017.)
  • Gitelman, Lisa (Editor), Raw Data is an Oxymoron, (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2013).
  • Kohonen, Teuvo, “The Self-Organizing Map”, in Neurocomputing, Vol. 21, Issue 1, 1998, pp. 1–6.
  • Lima, Manuel, Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Architectural Press, 2011).
  • Moretti, Franco, Graphs, Maps, Trees. Abstract models for Literary History, (London, UK: Verso, 2005).
  • Soft ontology, Wikipedia,, (Accessed 26 April 2018.)

[1] Lee, Aimee. 2008. Making hanji: Korean paper-making by Shin Hyun Se,, accessed 14. April 2018.

[2] Interest in SOM and ANNs at Media Lab Helsinki dates back to the late 1990s and early 2000s with Timo Honkela’s and Mauri Kaipanen’s tenure as professors.

[3] Hung Han Chen is a doctoral candidate at Aalto University. His work on SOM is part of his thesis about affective archives.


Johannes Neumeier Aalto University
Jim Demmers ACM SIGGRAPH Digital Arts Community site administration
Victoria Szabo Duke University, ACM SIGGRAPH
Susanne Hazan Israel Museum of Jerusalem
Conner MacGarrigle Dublin Institute of Technology
Rasa Smite RIXC New Media Center in Riga, University of Liepaja


Lily Díaz-Kommonen
Tania Rodríguez-Kaarto