We Need Us is an online artwork made with live data, animation, and sound. Artist Julie Freeman is particularly excited by life data – which are real-time data from living things – and how we can use them to translate nature, generating new perspectives. She is interested both in how life data might be represented and in what ‘life’ raw data, as a material for art, might have on their own terms. She considers the unique properties of the data itself, asking through the work, what distinct, living qualities and particular characteristics data might have – such as growth, velocity and fragility.
For We Need Us Freeman has created hand crafted algorithms, or bespoke computer code, to manipulate data taken from activity within the Zooniverse website. Zooniverse enables anyone who logs into it to classify large scientific datasets about subjects such as astronomy and biology. With over a million users working together to analyse data, it is the world’s largest citizen science project. Julie’s code for We Need Us captures, collects and exposes the real-time activity of Zooniverse users clicking and swiping online around the globe. In this way she is able to explore the real-time metadata (that is data about data) from Zooniverse, to perform for her in a way that starts to describe data in a very different way than simply as an analysing tool.