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Big Data

Panel Discussion

C/O Berlin and the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation invite you to the panel discussion entitled Big Data in the Amerika Haus. Heiko Maas, Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection, Sophie Mützel, sociologist specializing in "media & networks",and the artist and author James Bridle will discuss the benefits and risks of our transparent lives in times of digital exploitability of data. The event will be moderated by the chief correspondent of Deutsche Welle and TV presenter Melinda Crane and is part of the series Watched! Surveillance Art & Photography instead.

Listen now:

The data that we generate daily through our behavior has long since become a precious resource. Around the world, new data is collected, analyzed and evaluated for scientific, economic or political purposes without us having any influence over it. We’ve arrived in digital Big Data and are forced to do a daily balancing act between protecting our privacy on the one hand and on the other the selfunderstanding of the freedom to which the Internet, social media and networks belong. Who do we communicate with? Which friends should we still know? Where's the next vacation destination? How healthy are we and how we move through the city? Do we offer this information voluntarily by using the preferences laid out for us in WhatsApp, Facebook, booking sites, step counters or GPS-based navigation devices? Behind attractively designed interfaces, a massive market hides in an as of yet mostly legally ambiguous and continuously growing space.

In the discussion, the participants from the fields of politics, sociology, art & data technology will grapple with the latest developments as well as with the benefits and risks in dealing with big data.

Surveillance has long been a major issue in society. Sociologists, psychologists, lawyers, politicians and artists address the different forms of surveillance and their effects on individuals and entire groups. They don't merely concentrate on issues of privacy and the potential threat to individuals through governmental and private surveillance, but rather critically and playfully deal with the various forms of daily surveillance as constitutive part of our social lives. Given this universal development, the question arises: What effect does this have on us? How are these developments reflected in artistic works? And how can contemporary art and media theory contribute to a better understanding of our modern surveillance society?

With the Watched! Surveillance Art & Photography event series, C/O Berlin and the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation seek to answer precisely these questions and present different commentaries and reactions from the perspective of contemporary art and media experts. The concept of the event series was created with the participation of city sociologist Dr. Dominik Haubrich.


James Bridle is a British writer, artist, publisher and technologist currently based in Athens, Greece. His work covers the intersection of literature, culture and the network. His work has been shown in solo shows in the UK, US and Germany, in group shows worldwide, and commissioned by organisations including the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Photographer’s Gallery, Artangel, the Istanbul Design Biennial, the Oslo Architecture Triennale and Guimaraes 2012 European City of Culture. He received an Honorary Mention at the Prix Ars Electronica 2013, and in 2014 he was awarded the Excellence Award at the Japan Media Arts Festival, the Graphics Award at the Design Museum Designs of the Year, and shortlisted for the Future Generation Art Prize. As a journalist and essayist he has written for the Guardian, the White Review, Frieze, WIRED, ICON, Domus, Cabinet, the Atlantic, the New Stateman and many other publications, and between 2011 and 2015 wrote a regular column for the Observer newspaper on publishing and technology. James is a regular speaker at museums, conferences and symposia worldwide, including academic summits and public events such as the Global Art Forum, Re:Publica, Paris Photo, SXSW, dConstruct, LIFT, Web Directions, NEXT Berlin and TED.

Melinda Crane Born 1956 / Studied history and political science at Brown University and law at Harvard / 1987 PhD in political economy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy / 2002 to 2007 International Affairs Consultant on the Sabine Christiansen political affairs show for ARD Germany / Produced interviews with figures including Kofi Annan, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and George Bush / 2005 to 2008 senior producer on Global Players international discussion show for CNBC / 2009 to present: commentator and analyst on US political and economic affairs for n-tv / 2011 to present: chief political correspondent at DW TV and host of Quadriga / 2014 awarded the Steuben-Schurz Media Award for services to transatlantic understanding / Writes for publications including The New York Times Magazine, The Boston Globe and the Christian Science Monitor / Melinda Crane lives and works in Berlin.

Sophie Mützel is Professor of Sociology at the Department of Sociology, University of Lucerne.  She teaches on the sociology of algorithms, big data and social media, as well as metrics in journalism within the program on “media and networks”. Her research interests lie in the areas of big data and its analytics, in particular text analytics, network analysis, as well as economic and cultural sociology.  Sophie is a Berliner. She studied Political Science at UC Berkeley, Sociology at Cornell, and finished her  PhD at Columbia University.  After her completing her PhD, she taught and conducted research at Humboldt-University and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center. She has been a research fellow at Harvard, at the European University Institute, Florence, and held a guest professorship at the University of Vienna.