Out of Balance Competition Launches

Humantific is delighted to announce our international competition collaboration with Magazine ARCH+ and Bauhaus Dessau Foundation.

OUT OF BALANCE  - CRITIQUE OF THE PRESENT
Information Design after Otto Neurath

Prize Money: 20,000 Euros

Sponsors: Autodesk, Humantific, M:AI Museum für Architektur und Ingenieurkunst

The Topic
“1. Societal processes are presently emerging that make a balancing of social inequalities ever more unlikely and that pose a serious danger that society will drift apart, both on the global and national level and on the regional and local level. People are born into socio-spatial circumstances. Their chances in life vary in the extreme because of this “randomness”. In the interest of social integration and in accordance with democracy’s postulate of equality, modern societies embody the promise of an equalization of living circumstances. This is a guarantee for the political stability of a community. So it is not only permitted, but clearly necessary to ask about the fulfillment of this political desideratum. That means to ask what social reality actually looks like; to ask about the balance of a 30-year phase of ne liberal economy on a global level; to ask what effects deregulation and the privatization of state tasks and the restructuring of the social systems in Europe have had; and to ask how the unleashing of the global financial industry affects above all the economically weak.

Cities have always been the sites of migrants’ hopes for survival and the improvement of their situations, but they are also sites of organized defensiveness, inequality, and exclusion. The urbanization of world society is an accelerating process.

In the 21st century, for the first time in the history of humankind, more people live in cities than in rural environments, with unpredictable and initially catastrophic consequences for both rural and urban areas. In the megalopolises of the Third World and emerging countries, the social conditions of 19th-century Europe are resurfacing in potentiated form. At the same time, these processes affect the “old” world by means of streams of capital, goods, and migrants, creating new imbalances and disadvantages there. Starting with the financial markets, a system of organized irresponsibility has spread that not only exacerbates social differences, but also consciously exploits them for private advantages.

We live in a time that must be newly surveyed – in social terms and as the basis for a new societal consensus. Coming back to “real things” is the precondition for this.”

“2. Today, the difficulty of empirically describing reality no longer lies in a lack of information, but, quite the contrary, in the constantly growing amount of data that make it difficult to draw an overall picture of society and to distinguish between what is important and what is unimportant. Today we have access to an unencompassable wealth of data, much of it automatically generated: statistics, personal data, photos, documents, etc. Hardly anything seems able to elude this universal visibility in the digital age. At the same time, the present is increasingly more opaque. There are precise data for more and more questions of detail, but it is getting harder to find orientation and gain an overview of the present; the quantitative description of phenomena is getting denser, but understanding of the underlying relations and processes seems to be vanishing. Considering that all societal activity depends on information, the wealth of data poses a real dilemma; we can indeed speak of a “digital opacity”. Automated processing with the aid of programs that autonomously view, order, and evaluate data in no way automatically creates transparency.

A situation arises in which political activity is not empirically verifiable and is dissolved in politically exploitable contradictions.

Information design is more than a collection of data: information design uses data to create statements that provide insights into societal circumstances. Information design reveals connections behind the surface of the phenomena. Information design provides orientation. It creates a hierarchy of information based on relevance and content. It reduces complexity, thereby creating an overview.

Information design is not neutral. The shaping of information is influenced by the interest in knowledge. An enlightening, emancipatory information design reveals facts that are repressed, not spoken of, or forgotten, but that are nonetheless essential for understanding the present. And it thereby influences the perspective of societal activity. The image of the world we make for ourselves determines how we act.”

Possible Thematic Fields Include:
“Urban processes/spatial transformations like urbanization, segregation, deterioration into slums, gentrification, pollution, etc.

Global streams of financial capital, goods and raw materials, the outsourcing of production, human migratory movements, etc.

The task of the competition takes up the thread of the picture-pedagogical work of Otto Neurath. With his method of pictorial statistics, he developed effective forms of visually preparing data and implementing them in informational graphics that make it easier to grasp societal conditions and processes.”

Participants:
“The competition is directed towards:

Members of the design disciplines: information design, architecture, urban and regional planning, environmental planning, graphic design, product design, media design, photography, film, visual arts.

Scientists in the disciplines art and cultural studies, art education, information sciences and communication studies, social sciences, economics, environmental and geoscience, ethnography, statistics, cartography.

Students in both areas. Collaboration in interdisciplinary teams with both designers and scientists is recommended.”

Exhibition and Publication
“The competition submissions will be published by the competition’s organizers and exhibited in the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin in Autumn 2013.”

Jury:
Heinz Bude, Social Scientist/Economist
Joost Grootens, Graphic Artist
Sabine Kraft, Editor ARCH+
Joachim Krausse, Cultural Scientist
Philipp Oswalt, Bauhaus Dessau Foundation
Philippe Rekacewicz, Geographer/Cartographer
Simon Rogers, The Guardian
Christian Weiss, Autodesk
GK VanPatter, Humantific
Ursula Kleefisch-Jobs, M:AI

Procedure
“Inscription from August 15, till November 12, 2012
Submission of the works by January 31, 2013 (postmark).”

Find Project Partners Online
“Starting August 15, 2012 for initiating cooperation between designers and scientists in interdisciplinary teams.”

Learning from Otto Neurath
“The task of the competition takes up the thread of the picture-pedagogical work of Otto Neurath. With his method of pictorial statistics, he developed effective forms of visually preparing data and implementing them in informational graphics that make it easier to grasp societal conditions and processes. For Otto Neurath – the co-founder of the Vienna Circle and central proponent of logical empiricism – statistics were a central source for the scientific description of society and the economy. But description was in no way his sole interest. The content gained from the data also conveyed the demand to participate in shaping the present and in securing an imaginable future. Neurath trusted the latent political message of numbers and made it his task to make them “speak” and to make them accessible to those they most concern.

In the twenty years in which it was elaborated – 1925 to 1945 – the Vienna Method of pictorial statistics went through numerous transformations and expansions, without abandoning its principles. This mutability manifested itself, first, in applicability to disparate thematic areas; second, in the expansion of its effective scope from the local to the global; third, in the internationalization of language and pictorial language (from the Vienna Method to ISOTYPE); and fourth, in the adaptation of the graphic signs to changing media, including the moving image of film. The clarity of the concept’s principles and its openness suggest that we concern ourselves again with Neurath’s approach to information design.

Today, more data are at our disposal than ever before; but precisely the growing plethora of data raises questions. How can meaningful information be extracted from the sea of data? How can one meet the desire for legibility, coherence, and orientation? What actual situations remain unobserved or under-illuminated, despite the wealth of data? Something else has developed: the spectrum of the digital processing of information permits animated depictions and interactive forms of communication. Viewers are involved in generating data and become potential co-designers of the information design. In the face of the demands placed today on interface design, the significance of Otto Neurath’s contribution to information design is clear. Material and technical means have meanwhile developed enormously.”

With this competition, we are seeking ways in which Neurath’s concepts of data visualization can be adapted for the capabilities and needs of today’s world.

Official Announcement
“See announcement in detail in German and English at
ARCH+  or Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

Note: Complete competition descriptions, dates and directions are available in German and English on the ARCH+ site.

Related Inspiration:
Before, During & After Isotype
Isotype Building Bridges
Making Sense of Industries

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