Let's get: PHYSICAL

Materializing routines with personal data

Supervised by
Claudia Müller-Birn, Freie Universität Berlin
Judith Glaser, Weißensee Academy of Art Berlin
Peter Sörries, Freie Universität Berlin

Personal data increasingly permeate our everyday routines. We unconsciously or consciously record our activities, for example, by counting our daily steps, pinning our favorite places in the city, or monitoring our electricity and water consumption. These data can help people reflect on existing routines and behavior on an individual scale for self-optimization. On a large scale, these data can help develop a profound understanding and an awareness of social, ecological, or economic entanglements.


We have a profound need to represent data about and around us, turn it into information, make its significance graspable, and derive possible actions. Under the umbrella term of data physicalizations, we want to create physical artifacts „whose geometry or material properties encode data“ (Jansen et al., 2015). Our interdisciplinary course project „Let’s get: PHYSICAL“ explores how data physicalizations support people’s understanding of personal data and enable informed action. These physicalizations represent what we understand as „neo-analogue“ a synthesis of digital (data) and material (thing) in form and function.


In this course, we tackle several challenges: How can we enable people to explore and understand physical data in a meaningful way? How can people interact with and manipulate data physically? How can data physicalizations foster people’s reflection to understand better personal data and their social, ecological, or economic entanglements?


In interdisciplinary teams, we challenge students from Computer Science of Freie Universität Berlin and Product Design of the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin to develop novel neo-analogue artifacts. These artifacts support „cognition, communication, learning, problem-solving, and decision making“ (Jansen et al., 2015) using modalities such as hearing, feeling, smelling, or even tasting.


„Let’s get: PHYSICAL“ cooperates with the Cluster of Excellence Matters of Activity.