Joanna Stirling | 1 November 2016
Jo Stirling,’The Modern Midden’ 2015, installation shot. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.
The Modern Midden, a small part of the big story of waste (2015) is an immersive visual data story that engages with waste generation and disposal in Australia. The project questions a reliance on landfill as a final destination for waste disposal and this being the predominant and relied upon solution. Central to the project is the recording and instigation of participatory experiences that build upon existing data to establish new evidence in order to question our relationships with waste. This paper discusses how data visualisation can be a strategy for exploring pathways of collective change through information design by making visible the data evidence of waste generation in new ways. Participants are asked to collect, sort, and categorise refuse produced by households over a set duration. By making the data evidence of “waste” visible and physical as the byproduct of wasteful systems and behaviours, we can share and witness the new nature of our own creation: “a world of objects without depth that leave no trace in our memories, but leave a growing mountain of refuse.”  This case study asks: What happens when data, materials and actions become a collective and shared experience? How do these new layered stories become important to nature? How do data and nature converge through these collective and shared processes?