view at Crawl Space - displaying our findings
parallel (professional) lives, Nicole and I both
have quite a bit of experience with social
science data collection and analysis - trying to
assess subjective things using scientific means,
or assigning a value to things like a view of
the mountains, quality of life, or an ecosystem.
This project applied these same social science
methods to art, conducting two surveys and
analyzing the data.
One survey showed people one of two images - a
painting in a museum, or a photoshopped image of
the same painting sitting in the art section of
a thrift store (the pictures in the installation
view at right). We asked survey respondents to
set a value on the painting they saw.
survey was given to three different groups -
people at the Pioneer Square Art Walk (outside
of SOIL), riders on the Bremerton ferry which
connects Seattle to the military town of
Bremerton, and students at Aviation High School
where we had been teaching a high school class.
This survey asked people what they thought
of art and where and how often they looked at it
designing surveys about something that is
personal, subjective, and difficult to
categorize, we were able to expose some of the
inherent difficulties in the survey process -
the forced choices, question wording, and
categorizing that not only can signal poor
survey design, but outright manipulation. As our
society has become more and more obsessed with
data collection, polling and surveying to make
decisions, it has become common practice to
design a survey to get the answer you want -
leaving us all data rich and information poor.
This was reflected in the chaotic 'punk rock
science fair' presentation of the results of our
analysis, shown at right as installed at Crawl
Space Gallery in Seattle.
act of giving and taking a survey is a public
act and a personal one. In answering survey
questions, the respondent must make a number
of decisions - whether to be straightforward
and cooperative no matter how unsatisfactory
the choices are, or to be noncooperative or
answer untruthfully. It's also an act of trust
- that the information you give is not going
to be manipulated or tabluated in a way that
you did not intend.
The surveyor is in the uncomfortable situation
of being the face that no one wants to see
coming their way, and having to establish a
nearly instantaneous trust or rapport with
their potential respondents. For the surveyor,
tabluating and analyzing the data is the
private act - one that is fraught with
unanticipated questions, judgement calls, and
follow-up questions that you can never ask.
view at Crawl Space
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