NEMO Training boosted participants’ confidence in data practice

Oskar Aspman illustrated the participants' data monsters based on the discussions in the group.

On 30 June 2023, 20 persons connected to NEMO member organisations participated in a 3-hour online workshop with the special title “Overcome your data practise monsters”, which aimed to help participants feel more confident when dealing with data.

When new data practices are being deployed at cultural heritage organisations, a new set of apprehensions and insecurities emerge. Data and activities around it are often very elusive. At the interactive session, participants were invited to confront and get to know their data monsters through various interactive exercises: depicting the monster, naming the monster, addressing the monster and giving it an opportunity to respond.

Taking inspiration from Monster Studies, which conceptualises the agency of technology and data through the figure of the monster, the workshop aimed to explore the monstrous aspects of data practices so that we might learn to live and work (differently) with our monsters.

To begin with the participants named their challenges while working with data, and most of them had the problem of not having an overview of how much and what kind of data was already existing in their institutions or the data was not orderly enough.

Participants then started to talk about their experiences and concerns with data work, and with the technical help of the tool Google Jamboard, participants visually created their “data monster”. Afterwards, they got in contact with their monster and told them what they needed from them to work properly with all the data, what was missing and what they disliked about the monster. In a last step, participants were invited to imagine what kind of payment a monster would demand for its services, considering ethical issues and contextual limitations of their data work.

This hands on workshop was facilitated by Pille Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt, Professor in Media and Communication at Malmö University and member of Academia Europaea. Her colleague Line Henriksen, Senior Lecturer in Literature and Creative Writing at Malmö University, gave a deeper insight in the concept of monsters as a working tool. Artistic Lecturer in Visual Communication and Graphic Design Oskar Aspman, with a special interest in comics, illustrated the monsters that were created by the participants and Senior Lecturer in Literature Asko Kauppinen assisted the discussions with additional reflections about data in cultural institutions.