Data Artist Jer Thorp’s work focuses on revealing the human stories within huge amounts of data. For Thorp, data sets mirror the selves we might not otherwise see. Working at the juncture of social justice, tech and art, Thorp teaches how to read the timely information that surrounds us in numbers and graphs, using cutting-edge visualization techniques to express those narratives.
More than visualization, Thorp is committed to rethinking the creation and legibility of data systems. He wants to lessen the chasm between humans and the data we often see as being extrinsic to our lives. From 2013 to 2017, Thorp operated The Office for Creative Research with his peers, where together they produced unprecedented projects—like installing a public art installation that visualizes pain, as seen in Manchester’s “Cloudy with a Chance of Pain.” The sculpture depicted two week’s worth of chronic pain data as a walkway of primary colors, large enough to shelter a marching band.
Native to Vancouver, Thorp now lives in New York City, where he teaches in NYU’s ITP program. He has been a vocal advocate around data, ethics, and privacy, spearheading a project with The OCR called Floodwatch: a collective ad monitoring tool that empowered individuals to see how advertisers were profiling them, and to share data with privacy researchers in an effort to combat discriminatory practice.
“Underpinning Jer’s examples is a powerful common thread of humanizing data and making it a living piece of our personal histories and cultural poetics.”— Maria Popova
In his talks, Thorp charmingly breaks down the most opaque aspects of his work, showing even the least tech-savvy individuals how data can be seen—beautifully—in our most personal of gestures. Data is founded on discrete connections, as Thorp expressed in his moving 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero, for which he wrote a program that organized the names of victims not by alphabetical order, but by relationships—putting coworkers next to coworkers, and brothers next to brothers.
From 2010-2012, Thorp was the Data Artist in Residence at The New York Times, bringing sprawling data sets to life by combining state-of-the-art science with a love of colorful design. His “Cascade” project at the Times visualizes the sharing of content through social media, offering tremendous insight into the way we use digital networks to share, influence, and connect with others.
Named as one of Canada’s Greatest Explorers by Canadian Geographic, Thorp’s award-winning software-based work has been exhibited and implemented in Europe, Africa, Asia, North America, and South America. He has over a decade of teaching experience, and has presented at The Ford Foundation in New York City, the Library of Congress, the National Academies, and is a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Design Innovation.
“We had an amazing time with you! It was fun and interesting and easygoing. Thank you! And the event was a huge success! People’s comments are raves. They had never heard this view about Big Data and it made total sense to them. Huge impact!”The Mob, Brazil
Living in Data
Data Art Beyond Visualization
We all know that data visualization can be a powerful tool for understanding. But what about data sonification? Or data sculpture? Or data performance?
Jer Thorp’s career as a data artists has brought him from the bustling newsroom of The New York Times to a submersible in the inky depths of the Gulf of Mexico; from the gleaming white galleries of MoMA to the divided streets of St. Louis. In this talk, Jer will examine how artists can insert themselves into data systems to provoke, interrogate and examine. Jer will discuss his own evolving practice as a Data Artist, and will propose ways for data visualization practitioners to move beyond charts and graphs.