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Home » Carrie Roy: When Art Collides With Data at TEDxMileHighWomen (Transcript)

Carrie Roy: When Art Collides With Data at TEDxMileHighWomen (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Carrie Roy’s TEDx Talk: When Art Collides With Data at TEDxMileHighWomen conference. This event occurred on October 28, 2016.


I am a data artist. I work to transform numbers into art, and that art helps people engage with information.

I work with experts in many different fields, and that is awesome. But sometimes, the collaborative process can begin like a bad joke. A journalist and a data artist walk into a bar. And the journalist says she wants to convey how important it is that massive amounts of dairy farm manure stays out of our drinking water. At this point, I slide my water to the side; I am just drinking beer.

She says in Brown County, Wisconsin, there’s on average a half cow for every acre of agricultural land. Now I think in pictures, so I’m envisioning this landscape dotted with half-Holsteins. But I wonder, how much waste does each produce? I look it up: 65 pounds of manure in one day.

And I remember thinking, yes, that’s a lot of manure! But I’m not exactly sure how much; it’s hard to visualize. Now, maybe it was the beer, but the numbers sparked my imagination.

What if I had people stand next to it? Like this life-sized half-cow standing on whatever 65 pounds of manure is. Now, as an artist, this is a big job. A life-sized half-cow is a challenge, and when you have a big challenge, you want to use your best tools. So, I used my computer, three saws, an angle grinder, and my vision as a sculptor; and Ms Brown, as we call her, emerged from the wood chips and went on to tour seven cities, raising awareness on water quality issues.

We have data visualization down to a science, when I would argue some data require more humanity, a reflection on the memories, emotions, and sensory experiences that make us human. Graphs and charts are great for some data, but we have an increasing need to integrate many types of data to enable new insights.

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