We are in the business of big data. Our products transform a deluge of information across the world and make them meaningful to communities around the world. We design systems and tools that curate information that we hope to make impactful to people in terms of crisis.

An interesting connection can be made here between the curation of data and the curation of art around the world. Art, for many, is seen as belonging to it’s own abstract world. Artists and creators are often designated into specific spaces online where we seek inspiration and consume artistic works for pleasure or to merely pass along as something interesting that we saw online. The internet has influenced the art world significantly in the recent past creating new mediums for different forms of art but also as a means to accessing art. Art is no longer confined to physical spaces the internet has given us new ways of distributing and accessing art that can function independently outside the confines of a museum.

As a curator (for African Digital Art) working for Ushahidi has been a fascinating plunge into the world of data. I interact with organizations, communities from the world who use our products and tools. I am required to think about how our products will be used, what use cases would be made for the products that we make and whether or not our tools are manageable, transferable and easy to navigate.

Now that the internet has revolutionized not only human interaction but our ability to experience new information the case can be made about how to translate new technologies outside the confines of social media and crisis mapping.

Imagine with me a new possibility. What if we could use tools like Crowdmap and Ushahidi as a museum. Crowdmap is a crowd mapping platform that effortlessly allows a user to create interactive maps filled with multimedia information in a matter of minutes. Imagine the possibility of using Crowdmap as a means to locate important art and artifacts across the globe. Users can post exhibitions, their artistic work sharing with audiences easily.

The ushahidi platform has large in part gained recognition for giving voice to the crowd. By simply allowing their users to participate, the strength of Ushahidi is largely due to the power of democratizing sources of information. By providing tools such as Crowdmap and Ushahidi there is an opportunity to also democratize art spaces. In a recent article in the New Yorker, Alain de Botton’s Healing Arts, Botton emphatically cries out “People think there is no problem with art museums… But there is.” He also makes the connection that there is something lacking in our tech and social media platforms… “Our world, for all its technological sophistication, is lacking in certain qualities. But this painting is a visitor from another world, where those qualities—tenderness, reverence, and modesty—are very highly valued.”

Reading Botton’s thoughts about the need for reframing art institutions I can see that there are some missing pieces between the offline and online experience. The offline experience is outdated and archaic, art institutions are only accessed by those who have a relative understanding of art education. They are shushed and eased into cold rooms where they merely glance and pass along.

What we could do, through the power of user generated platforms like Crowdmap and Ushahidi is to connect our locations and provide meaningful artistic experiences we can engage with new audiences who might have never had access to art before.

“An exhibition shown in physical space has a set opening and closing date, requires a visit to a physical locality and, after its closing, becomes part of the “cultural archive” through its catalogue, documentation, and critical reception in the press. An exhibition of online art, however, is seen by a translocal community, never closes and continues to exist indefinitely (until some party fails in sustaining it). It exists within a network of related and previous exhibitions that can be seen directly next to it in another browser window, becoming part of the continuous evolution of the art form. Depending on their openness, the artworks included in the exhibition (through linking) may continue to evolve over time.”

Flexible Contexts and Online Curatorial Practices

Imagine if we could not only  share our photos, videos, posts and locations over Crowdmap but also share art and the projects we create that transcended periods of years and time that tie into specific places and spaces that exist today around the world. Our products could not only invite those who did not feel invited in institutional museums but they would become a global network of people brought together by shared experiences and shared artistic expressions. I invite you to create more spaces like these on Crowdmap.