Frank McCourt’s Project Liberty Unveils Immersive Experience in NYC Exploring Personal Data Ownership
If you had the power to control your data what would you do? Project Liberty, a new initiative founded by civic entrepreneur Frank McCourt with the potential to transform how the internet works and who benefits from the digital economy, today unveiled 'A Project Liberty Experience', an interactive installation that explores that question. The initiative is led by Unfinished, the organization dedicated to strengthening civic life in the digital age,
Global brand experience agency Jack Morton worked with Project Liberty to create 'A Project Liberty Experience', a provocative, interactive art exhibit prompting visitors to envision a world where they own and control their own data. The new immersive exhibit is now on display at the Shed at Hudson Yards in New York City and was free and open to the public from Thursday, September 23, to Saturday, September 25.
Housed in The Shed's McCourt space, a 17,000-square-foot light-, sound- and temperature-controlled hall, the colossal 60-foot-tall cylindrical installation is designed to engage the public in an experience that highlights the beauty of our individual and collective data. It takes visitors on an interactive journey to tell the simple but powerful story behind how much data we create, its value, that it isn’t owned by the people and therefore we don’t recoup that value.
The exterior surface of the cylinder features a captivating piece from acclaimed media artist and director Refik Anadol, a pioneer of the aesthetics of data and machine intelligence, along with an animation featuring responses to a crowdsourced survey asking the question “If you had the power to control your data, what would you do?” Projected onto the surface by 36 projectors, Anadol’s piece, titled "Machine Hallucination," is composed of more than 100 million publicly available images of New York City's architecture, cityscapes and landscapes that were processed in over a thousand latent dimensions. The work creates an entirely new audio-visual experience that explores how the use and monetization of personal data in the digital age is changing the way we tell stories in public spaces.
Inside the cylinder, attendees will encounter a hands-on interactive data experience, designed by Jack Morton, that educates visitors about the journey their data takes and the alternative path that could exist. The experience, comprising two horizontal 45 feet by 8 feet interactive LED screens, gives visitors the ability to "touch and feel" the difference between the current, closed-off world of data ownership by private companies and the liberated world of data ownership by the people. As they near either of the screens they will have one of two different experiences, with the pixels representing their data interacting in different ways.
On the first screen, which symbolises the current state of data ownership, their data is taken from them, owned and controlled by someone else. Motion sensor cameras detect the attendee’s presence, generating a visual of digital particles and lines on the screen that represent their data. Those particles and lines will be automatically collected and siloed within one of three “walled gardens,” which represent the organizations that currently own and control our personal data.
On the second screen, which symbolises the future state of data ownership, they can control the data they generate. LiDAR Sensors detect the attendee’s presence as they raise their hands toward the screen, breaking the LiDAR plane. As attendees extend and move their hands, particles are generated on screen and attendees can control them in a dynamic data visualisation that represents the shared and fluid nature of the decentralized web. The experience illustrates the constant stream and massive volume of our collective data and points to the promise of a future where data - and the value it represents - is owned and controlled by each of us as individuals.
'A Project Liberty Experience' is part of Unfinished Live at The Shed, which convenes influential tech, impact and cultural leaders focused on exploring the future of digital technology and accelerating solutions for a more ethical and equitable internet.
"For all of technology's benefits, the current tech structure lacks a conscience, and that's creating and exacerbating major problems," said civic entrepreneur Frank McCourt, who founded Project Liberty, a visionary initiative aimed at transforming how the internet works and who benefits from the digital economy. "Users of today's technology platforms do not own, control or derive value from their personal data—and this should concern all of us. A Project Liberty Experience is designed to encourage people to reflect deeply upon this dynamic and better understand its damaging consequences. We hope the experience motivates people to join us in imagining and creating a world where personal data is back in the hands of individuals, where it belongs, and to reclaim technology for the common good."
"Art can be a powerful tool for social change," said Anadol. "I am thrilled to be part of creating a groundbreaking exhibit that allows visitors to personally connect with the idea that their data is beautiful, valuable, empowering and—most importantly—theirs. I hope this work spurs people to reflect on how their data is being used and recognize they should have a choice in the matter."
Joe Panepinto, PhD, SVP, strategy director, Jack Morton, says: “What makes the experience so powerful from an experiential perspective is the tight alignment between the messaging and the on-the-ground experience. The journey takes attendees through a set of connected experiences that help them recognise their data is valuable, realize it doesn’t belong to them, and reimagine a future where it does.”
Lucille Essey, SVP, executive creative director, comments: “Your data is yours, it is valuable and it is beautiful is the message behind the Project Liberty Experience. It’s so powerful, so visceral and so poignant for our time, and we were thrilled to help to bring it to life and make it accessible to the general public. Conversations around data, privacy, ownership and control are surrounded by bleakness and this was a way to show possibility, spark awareness and possibly interest in building a new road and paradigm. More than ever before, the world needs hope and the Project Liberty experience visualizes that hope as a possibility, a consideration and if nothing else, something beautiful.”