Wilding data

Year: 2018

Author: Duhn, Iris, Galvez Donoso, Sarita

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this presentation we extend a curious practice approach to the ongoing tending of, and care for, data. Our paper examines ways data lives on beyond academic inquiry. What happens if data, which becomes tamed, named, and generally domesticated in academic inquiry, is re-wilded?
The re-wilding data experiment involves revisiting a research encounter from a walk with children in the spring of 2017. The encounter was archived under the larger theme of children and animal encounters. This particular encounter held our attention for a while now. We keep referring to it, perhaps because it would have been easy to miss this encounter altogether. The meeting between child and animal was imagined yet ‘real’. It involved a girl who was curious and attentive, and a bat who slept out of sight high up in the canopy along the Birrarung river. Domesticating the data involved making sense of the girl’s very slow walk when everyone else was running, and remembering that there had been talk of bats sleeping in the trees a couple of days earlier. She walked so very slowly because she did not want to disturb the sleeping bat. The sleeping bats and the attentive girl captured our imagination. We wondered how often children are attentive and attuned to invisible yet present ‘otherness’ when adults assume they are day dreaming or dawdling. 
In 2018 the bat story resurfaced. Increased awareness of the loss of biodiversity, amongst them native bats, reconnected us with the bat-girl encounter. Our research collection phase was completed but kindergarten children’s feet continued to create a trail under the bat colony along the Birrarung. Invisible yet 'real' encounters between human mammals with their feet on the ground looking up, and bat mammals clinging to trees with their feet, sleeping upside down, continued. 
As part of the dissemination, we experiment with the idea of an art exhibition, inspired by bats who help to re-wild by flying long distances, crossing territories and dropping seeds. They are the only mammals that fly. Wilding data with bats invites us to consider what artists might do with the girl-bat encounter. What sounds did we not hear? What colours did we not see? What other seeds are waiting to germinate if data is thrown out there, like a seed bomb? Our intention is to curate an art exhibition next, to create conditions for wilding data to germinate and to flourish in unexpected places.