9 Fascinating Datasets Available Online for Free

Data is invaluable for our continued advancement as a society. We use it to decide which hospitals to attend, which foods to eat, what career to take. We can learn incredible lessons from the past, and make vast sums of money from predicting future


As individuals, we are lucky to have access to more data than ever before, as data sets continue to be made available online for free.

Primarily as an excuse to let you know about the amazing Infochimps website (that catalogues datasets and makes them available), here are some interesting data sets that you might want to explore:

  1. 500,000 email messages from Enron senior management
  2. 500,000+ US pager intercepts from the 9/11
  3. Frequency of Sex versus Satisfaction Levels
  4. Meat Consumption by Type and Country
  5. The Location of Michael Jackson’s White Glove in 10,000+ Video Frames
  6. Drug Use by Arrestees in Major U.S. Cities
  7. Characters from Baywatch
  8. 1,000 Most Frequently Used English Words by Frequency
  9. UFO Reports, by city, shape, duration

Are We Witnessing the Trivialization or Democratization of the Web?

Google Search from 2004 Trends

The Google Insights For Search tool provides one method for tracking changes to our culture and priorities. The graph above (click for a larger version) shows the change in volume of global searches for six different categories of query, from 2004 to 2010. Changes are relative to the search volume for each category in 2004, i.e. each category starts at 0% change on the left.

The last six years have seen a noticeable increase in searches for Shopping, Beauty and Entertainment – all rather selfish topics. Conversely, Science, Society and Arts – some might say the more intellectual or cultural subjects – have seen a noticeable drop over the same time period.

To draw any specific conclusions from such generic data would be foolish. However, a pessimist might suggest that this highlights a dumbing-down of society, where we increasingly turn to commercialism and celebrities to fill our time. An optimist might suggest that this data shows how the web has successfully evolved from a limited academic tool in the richest countries to a widespread media that a broad range of people rely on.

The only hard conclusion I’m taking from this is: now’s the time to invest in online beauty companies.

Artes Mundi 2010

This year’s Artes Mundi exhibition opened at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff last month. Since it’s conception in 2003, the international Artes Mundi scheme (and award) has celebrated and exhibited contemporary New Media Art from a wide range of cultural backgrounds and countries. The idea amongst all, to connect Wales to a global modern art sphere.

This year’s overall theme was ‘Humanity’. Eight artists have been shortlisted for the award, all of whom are exhibited at the museum. The modern works include video installations/films, photography stills, lightbox images and ink drawings – with only one painting.

Highlights include Peru-born Fernando Bryce’s work, which looks at the ways in which print media reports and covers historical events. Bryce questions the perceptions of history and the construction of what we take as fact. He does so by imitating print media and through appropriation of newspapers and various prints. The images he produces are beautifully hand-drawn in ink, and challenge how we read and accept ‘facts’ in the media.

Chen Chieh-Jen uses film and photography to portray working labour, the social history and the working people who have been forgotten amidst growing consumerism. Chen’s stunning film ‘Factory’ is a beautifully shot piece, highlighting the plight of a factory in Thailand, now derelict; a victim of cheaper labour elsewhere. Amongst the ghostly rubble and machinery, he places former workers, silent in their protest at the way they were treated/sacked; forgotten workers, whose toil and mundane drudgery were unfairly ignored. Chen gives them a voice despite their silence, through slow moving camera-shots amongst the cob-webs, the melancholic death of an industry.

The poetic camera-angles of the aesthetic are a stark contrast to the decay of the topic, or indeed, the corruption in consumerism he wishes to portray.

Other exhibits include video installations and works dealing with issues in immigration, post industrialism, collapse of the Soviet Union and the deconstruction of Zionism. With artists from Albania, Peru, Russia and Kyrgyzstan amongst others, the Artes Mundi successfully brings world class art to Wales and illustrates New Media Art’s worth in expressing serious contemporary issues facing the world today.

The Artes Mundi exhibition runs at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff until June 6th. The winner will be announced on May 19th.

Image by Sian Prescott – of Yael Bartana’s poster Manifesto, which visitors are encouraged to take home with them.

Beautiful Living Postcards

A London-based company, A Studio for Design, has created a wonderful new way to send a greeting – the Postcarden. This

lovely little idea is packaged to be sent easily by post, utilises the skills of local artists and is created using ethical packaging and materials.

For our first product we looked at the most universal gift – the greeting card. We felt that this conventional card lacked surprise, bringing only a momentary enjoyment. The arrival of a greeting card or letter in the post can always brighten up your normal mail and bring pleasure but once opened its role becomes commonplace and static.

This quirky gift is currently available in three designs – Allotment, Botanical and City – for the price of £7.50 each.

I can’t wait to see what this creative bunch rolls out next!