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Data Fever: Ephemeral Realism, Eternal Reverie by Yunjia Yuan

No one ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river, and they’re not the same person.” ——Heraclitus

Can data be forgotten? Does data die? Data Fever is an experimental project that aims to disrupt the normality ties around data. Data has been held as a neutral, intangible perpetual entity that seems to be immune to the power of time. Through research, writing, and making, Data Fever sets out to destabilize the assumption and give form to data’s subjectivity, materiality, and ephemerality. Data Fever wishes to provoke questions and creates space for conversations.

Cover of the DataFever.pdf

Interplay Between the Digital and the Analogue

The project, encompassing and DataFever.pdf, serves as a platform to host creative practices, as well as a design artifact to provoke conversation. and DataFever.pdf present a mode of practice traversing between the digital and the analogue. The former emphasizes the physicality of digital data and the fleeting nature of the internet, while the latter offers an alternative approach to preserving digital data by bringing the two formats closer. This project aims to blend the digital and analogue realms, exploring the transitory nature of the internet, the fragility of media, and the limitations of both digital and printed matters.

Reflection: The Role of the Designer

Yunjia grappled with concepts like design neutrality, utility, and standard, leading her to question the constraints of design and a designer's role. The project transformed into an experimental space, utilizing diverse tools and methods to challenge the pressure of normality. Emphasizing analogue media, she pondered if a more digital approach would have yielded different outcomes.

"I've always struggled with design concepts such as neutrality, utility, and standard. These notions don't sit well with me, leading me to question the limitations of design and the role of a designer."

Initially, Yunjia aimed to explore the idea of the norm, but it took her months to find appropriate language and content to express her concept. As her research advanced, she realized her task was to create a language and forms for these notions. The problem with normalcy is its pervasiveness, making it challenging to start a conversation without proper form and language.

The project took a more experimental turn as she employed familiar tools, those that intimidated her, and ones she had never used before. She discovered ways to counter the force of normality by accentuating, focusing, and shaping. Most of the emphasis was on analogue media. In hindsight, Yunjia wondered if a more digital approach would have altered the project's progression.

"This project marks the beginning of my design inquiry and motivates me to continue learning and questioning. It has allowed me to delve into the unknown, getting lost while letting my curiosity guide me."

Data: A Closer Examination

"If we imagine the information generated by every google search as a stream of data, can we step twice in the same stream? How long will the data stream live? How to sustain the data? Can data be forgotten? Refresh is to replace the deteriorated with the new. Refresh is to delete. " ——Yunjia Yuan

In today's digital age, data streams have become an integral part of our lives, shaping our perceptions and decisions. However, beneath the surface of seemingly neutral data lies a web of biases and subjective interpretations that can obscure the truth.

Data may appear neutral at first glance, but it is often framed to serve someone's interest, making it inherently biased. Human interpretation defines the selection and categorization of data points, ultimately shaping the final dataset. As a result, the data we consume and rely on is often far from objective.

The continuous updating and optimization of data may seem like a noble endeavor, but it can also be a tool for manipulation and control. As data is selected, filtered, and synthesized to create knowledge, those in power can exploit the process to present a biased view of reality, bending the truth to fit their agenda.

Data's physical nature can be both a blessing and a curse. While it allows us to edit, change, and destroy data, it also grants those with malicious intent the ability to tamper with it, potentially leading to disinformation and the spread of false narratives.

The era of big data has led to an unprecedented growth in the volume of information available to us. However, this vast sea of data can obscure the truth, making it increasingly difficult to discern fact from fiction. The sheer scale of data at our disposal can overwhelm our capacity to make sense of it, leaving us vulnerable to manipulation and deception.

As data loses its relevance and meaningfulness, it ultimately dies. However, in a world where the lines between truth and falsehood are increasingly blurred, the death of data signifies the erosion of truth. As data streams continue to shape our lives, we must remain vigilant in our pursuit of unbiased, objective information to protect the integrity of our understanding of the world.

Data streams have become an omnipresent force in our lives, but their seemingly neutral nature masks a complex web of biases and subjective interpretations. As we navigate this provocative world of information, we must challenge our assumptions and seek out objective truth. Only by doing so can we counteract the manipulation and control that data can exert, ensuring a more transparent and truthful understanding of the world around us.

"Data is never raw. Data collection is never a neutral act." ——Yunjia Yuan introduces the factor of time and environment to the destruction of data. Data Fever gets one step closer to combining material, form, and messaging. The project further experiments with how to adapt digital content to printed matters. switches to an abstract perspective and approaches the subject in a new light. The film captures the data disintegrating in real time. The actions of burning and melting reflect data’s vulnerability in the face of global warming. Moire effect and flipbook are used as techniques to incorporate the motions into printed format. The book communicates the weight of time by transforming the snippets into a hundred pages.

Conclusion: An Ongoing Inquiry

Data Fever: Ephemeral Realism, Eternal Reverie captures the essence of the Data Fever project, serving as a first step in the design inquiry and encouraging continuous learning and questioning. By immersing oneself in the unknown and allowing curiosity to be the driving force, the project sheds light on the complexities and fragility of data, stimulating conversation and reflection on its true nature.

To learn more about Yunjia's thoughts and process, join UAAD for a virtual participatory event with Yunjia Yuan, encompassing her work, Data Fever: Ephemeral Realism, Eternal Reverie, which aims to disrupt normality and destabilize preconceptions through the lens of data, giving form to data's subjectivity, materiality, and ephemerality with light, hands-on & thought-provoking workshop activities!

The event will take place virtually on 4/29, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm Eastern Time!⁠


Attendees are invited to join the Zoom. We will post a recording of the talk on UAAD's YouTube channel afterward.⁠


About Yunjia Yuan

Yunjia Yuan is a graphic designer based in Lenapehoking (Brooklyn, NY) and came from Shanghai, China, She believes in the power of design to drive things forward, for both utilitarian purposes and conceptual inquiries She enjoys melding design, writing, and interactive media to reveal everyday normalcy, surveillance, and power.

She obtained a BFA degree in Communication Design, with minors in Art History and Gender and Sexuality Studies from Pratt Institute.

She is currently working at Forbes. Open to collaborations.

Exhibition Awards

2022-23, Pratt Institute Admissions Gallery exhibition

2022, Sounds About Riso Showcase

2022, Poster Stellars, 2nd Intercontinental Poster Competition, USA, Selected Political Northern America

2022, 2022 Kyoto Global Design Award


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