“The Study of Things in the Air” presented by Law


Session Title:

  • Nature, Aesthetics, Politics - Data Natures: the Politics and Aesthetics of Prediction

Presentation Title:

  • The Study of Things in the Air




  • Meteoros are things in the air like clouds, fog, mists, rain, snow, thunderstorms, rainbows, air pressure, humidity, and wind directions. The study of these things also looks to elements from beneath and phenomena from beyond. The interactions between these things are continually changing and inherently unpredictable.

    Weather forecasting practises an aesthetics of prediction that combines measurements of these things in the past (such as climate averages) with data readings of the present (such as synoptic charts) to present a future scenario of the highest probability: 7-day forecast, seasonal outlook, and long-range prediction. In this way, climatic and meteorological sciences are able to move forward in time; proposing climatic models by reaching back in time (analysing ice-core samples). The motivation to figure the oikeoumene—a nature inhabited by humans, non-humans, living, and nonliving things – is to provide a predictable environment. Today, this modelling is derived from quantifiable data gathered through precision instruments. In the past, inductive predictions were based on an entirely different set of data: observations (red skies at sunset) and sensing (onset of rheumatism), encoded into lores and cultures.

    The Illustrated Almanac of the Illawarra and Beyond (2011- ) works with such an aesthetic framework, akin to chorography: “an art as much as a science […that] combined mapping, landscape art and literary description.”[8] The project uses the ancient Chinese Almanac to map the southeastern coast of Australia over one calendar year. The resultant series of temporal maps formed from the interaction between this narrative framing and an eclectic collection of data: weather statistics, meteorological records, tidal predictions, astronomical observations, migratory species sightings, seasonal harvests, and anthropogenic rituals.

    Overlapping with citizen science, this project combines quantifiable data with narrative data to suggest how a different set of selection criteria can transform our dialogue with the changing oikeoumene.