"Smog Poem" and “Heating Season.” Creative work and Smog Datafication

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

"Smog Poem" by Leszek Onak is a text and graphics generator that uses the data on the environmental pollution to change the tissue of the text, its graphic elements, and other components depending on the pollution’s intensity. The algorithm has a form of an internet browser plugin; after its installation, the users browsing through the internet will experience the air pollution in front of their own eyes through the glitches appearing on the websites they use, the replacement of the photos and text modification. Some articles will be replaced by a separate generated text based on the syntactic mechanisms and the rules of the “Game of Life” by John Conway. 

The piece consists of two main engines. One mechanism is pulling data on the actual air pollution with Particulate Matter (PM 10 and PM 2.5), Nitrogen Dioxide NO2, Sulfur Dioxide SO2 and Carbon Monoxide CO. Each of those indicators is responsible for a different element distorting the content. The second mechanism is responsible for the upload of data from the websites and its modification depending on the particle pollution. If the air quality does not exceed the norms, the content of websites remains unchanged. 

"Heating Season" by Piotr Marecki is an analogue conceptual book, written by the city of Krakow. The texts are produced by the new citizens (I year university students), as well as people whose families have been living here for generations and the avant garde artists. 

Both works are related to the problem of smog in Krakow, one of the most polluted cities in Europe. 

The algorithm is representative of the growing trend of digital art based on resources and presenting them in a way to influence the user’s consciousness. It refers to the concept of ‘data dramatization’ by Liam Young, who once said: ‘Data Dramatization, as opposed to data visualization presents a data set with not only legibility or clarity but in such a way as to provoke an empathetic or emotive response in its audience.’ 

The book "Heating Season" is also based on the large bases collected among the citizens of Krakow. The respective parts of the book have been created by using different writing techniques, also those employing the collective narrator. Among them are: surveys conducted among randomly chosen landline phone users, records from the so-called "smogwatching" sessions, surprise quiz in the university class, smog investigation made in the social media and the weather transcripts. 

The starting point in producing the paper are two phenomena: we want to investigate how the previously invisible actors are presented in the creative digital works of the post-humanist era, and at the same time we want to investigate datafication as a modern technological trend turning many aspects of our life into computerized data and transforming this information into the new values. 

We are interested in the smog as a medium in language, in the data and in the expression.

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Jana Jankovska