Project Type: Generative
Exercise for Ethan Ham's
Email Erosion (EE) is a computer-operated installation (also viewable via webcam) that automatically creates sculptures when it receives an email. EE has roots in conceptual art because its activity is centered around a set of instructions. It also relates to data visualization, or the aesthetic presentation of text or numerical information. In EE, a block of biodegradable styrofoam is surrounded by a steel frame. When triggered by the contents of emails, a mobile mechanism sprays water on the foam and causes it to slowly dissolve.
Note: this exercise is difficult, and best suited for students with some familiarity with online communication.
To consider how data can be visualized in forms that are not text or number-based.
Warm-Up Activity (5min):
View different population charts: a bar chart, pie chart, histogram, and scatterplot. The educator should lead students in a brief discussion that touches upon each one. Suggested questions could include:
- What are the names of the different graphs?
- Which one best represents the information?
- Do any represent the original data in a way that seems inaccurate?
Play (10 min):
Students should scroll through Email Erosion, browsing the emails and seeing how each one creates a different foam sculpture.
Follow-Up Exercise (10 min):
The educator should introduce the terms conceptual art and data visualization and guide students in an interpretative discussion of the piece. Suggested questions could include:
- What is an email made of? For instance, subject, sender, body text?
- What connections can be made between the original emails and the sculpture? Is their content reflected in the sculptural form? Does the sculpture evoke email communication?
- Do students think that email is a valid subject for a piece of art?
- Do students enjoy the piece in its online form?
Activity (25 min):
Students should quantify how they spend their time in a day, according to half hour segments. The following are sample categories, but students should feel free to create their own categories:
- Listening to music
- Getting dressed
- At school
- Playing television
- Watching video games
Students should first lay this information out in a basic line chart. Next, they should transform it into either a bar chart or a pie chart. Finally, they should come up with an original way to visualize the information, be it a drawing or with words in different sizes. The educator should provide examples of data visualization that will guide them.