a map showing my planned and actual route on the datawalk.

Making things count - a datawalk

A photograph of a sports ground with many red objects

The National Bat Monitoring Programme is a citizen science initiative co-ordinated by the Bat Conservation Trust and undertaken by many volunteers. The field surveys involve walking along a ‘transect’, a 3km triangle, and stopping on twelve sites along the way.

You can download datasets from the National Biodiversity Network Gatway and also access a map of all the monitored sites. I discovered the nearest one to me was in Dulwich, around the common, so I attempted to reconstruct the transect and explore it. However, what I decided to do was not to monitor bats at all, but instead monitor phenomenon as it occurred to me at each site. I had originally conceived of this as datawalk in the sense of finding sources of data - this was inspired by a walk I had attended as part of the Museum of Contemporary Commodities project. Instead, it quickly became an exercise in data gathering - counting leaves, cars, the chirps of birds.

This act - counting - bound together the activity across all sites. For me it reaffirmed a few questions. How, by what operation, does something in the world become measurable, quanitifiable, individuated as a numerically distinct object? How is it that some of these quantifications become meaningful, whilst others appear as an obsessive and dry form of whimsy? And how do these operations related to the assignment of value, in all its forms?

I’ve gathered my notes, photos and maps and put them into a rough pdf - you can download it here: Making Things Count 1 (pdf)

Once I’ve had more time to reflect, and perhaps time to perform another ‘site visit’ I will see if I can do something interesting with the gathered data.