Ground Resistance – Showing city data through an art installation

In July 2016, the Milton Keynes International Festival featured an installation from artists Wesley Goatley and Georgina Voss called “Ground Resistance”. The idea of this installation was to show how a city (Milton Keynes) looks through the data it generates, and to reflect on the concept, ideas and potential pitfalls of the increasing move towards smart cities. This relied on data from the MK Data Hub to create a visual and sonic experience for residents of Milton Keynes to be able perceive the usually invisible aspects of the city’s infrastructure (including the energy and water distribution networks).

What does it do?

ground_resistanceGround resistance was both a visual and audio experience. It included a map of Milton Keynes projected on the floor, with data feeds being overlaid on top as they were updated. Different data feeds had different colours and updated at different rates. To reflect the notions of absence and of decay of data, shadows were projected onto the map in places where no data was available, and the display of data feeds faded in sync with the time since their last update. Similarly, the sounds of bells were being played every time a feed updated, with different bells (of different pitches) representing different feeds. As a sustainable element of this initiative, the Ground Resistance website enables exploring more of these data, and the divide that exists in terms of data provision for different areas of the city.

What data does it use?

The ground resistance installation used a variety of datasets to show infrastructure elements. Those included datasets from a smart meter trial ran by Samsungdata about bus locations and occupancy, and data about water levels from the MK Data Hub’s feed API. The installation also used the MK Data Hub’s Entity Centric API in order to obtain information about average Gas Consumption in geographical regions (see LSOA in Entity Lookup). The Ground Resistance website essentially uses the Entity-Centric API in order to obtain the location of various facilities and infrastructure elements in specific points of the map (see geo-point and geo-box in Entity Lookup). Indeed, it would use a call to this API to obtain the list of restaurants, roundabouts, schools, bus-stops, etc. in a specific geographical zone in the city using requests such as, for example: https://data.mksmart.org/entity/geo-box/52.03_-0.76_52.05_-0.74