Seven weird ways that data is used

Seven weird ways that data is used

Data doesn’t have to mean dry numbers, statistics and spreadsheets. When it’s opened or shared, it can be mashed up, presented and interpreted in a huge range of weird and wonderful ways

Minecraft players are using open data to create virtual worlds. CC BY 1.0, uploaded by Pixabay.

From creating music to mapping Mars, the more that data is shared, the more creative we are getting at turning it into something ﹣ transforming data that might have been intended for one thing into something completely different.

Here are some examples of some weird ways data has been used and interpreted.

Environment Agency data being used by Minecraft players. CC BY 1.0, uploaded by Open Data Institute.

For the last 17 years the Environment Agency has used lasers to map and scan the English landscape from above to support flood modelling and efforts to track changing coastal habitats. As part of its commitment to go open, and release all of its commercial datasets by 2018, in September last year the agency made its LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) dataset open.

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Since opening this data, some interesting uses have emerged, from vineyard planning to plotting archaeological sites. But perhaps the most unusual use is by players of Minecraft, a game where users dig and build different kinds of 3D blocks within a large world of varying terrains and habitats. Players of this game have requested the LIDAR data to help them build realistic virtual worlds.

The national mapping authority Ordnance Survey has also used its own open data products to build a virtual version of Great Britain for Minecraft.

A crisp machine, that was temporarily on display at the Big Bang Data exhibition in London’s Somerset House, continually scans the BBC News RSS feed and releases packets of crisps when words related to the recession make the headlines.

The art piece, which is now back at its original home at the ODI, even has its own Twitter account, declaring the flavour of crisps dispensed and the news story it relates to.

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The artist, Ellie Harrison, says: “Whilst seemingly an act of generosity – gifting free food at moments when further doom and gloom is reported – the Vending Machine also hints towards a time in the future when our access to food may literally be determined by wider political or environmental events.”

Data Cuisine runs workshops throughout Europe that explore food as a means of data expression, or ‘edible diagrams’.

Data-driven dishes include a lasagne that represents Finland’s ethnic mix, a fish dish that represents the emigration of young people from Spain and a pizza that represents renewable energy consumed in Switzerland.


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