(Big) Data, Diagram Aesthetics and the Question concerning Beauty

  • Falk Heinrich Aalborg University
Keywords: data, art, visualisation, aesthetics, beauty, sublime, diagram


The article investigates whether and in which way artistic artefacts deploying big data can be experienced as beautiful. The question is relevant, because the sentiment of beauty indicates besides an immediate sensory valuation also changes in cultural values and epistemic frameworks. The article focuses on artistic data visualisations. It applies concepts of philosophical aesthetics in order to trace an altered notion of beauty and its artistic and cultural implications.

The article’s introductory part presents some examples of data visualisations and introduces relevant notions of beauty and big data. The main part discusses the changes in our concept of beauty by analysing data visualisation in the light of conceptual art and its aesthetics of the sublime. Data visualizations present potentially unfathomable and complex information that is associated with the sublime, but represent data in a way that allows for understanding by means of imaginations, which are aspects of beauty. The article elaborates on the simultaneity of and oscillation between aesthetic beauty and the aesthetic sublime, by introducing Deleuze’s understandings of the concept of the diagram that is able to mediate between visualisation as representation and diagrams as performative machine of formation and displacement of data relations.

Author Biography

Falk Heinrich, Aalborg University

Head of Studies (School of Communiation, Art and Technology)

Department of Communication

How to Cite
Heinrich, F. (2016). (Big) Data, Diagram Aesthetics and the Question concerning Beauty. MedieKultur: Journal of Media and Communication Research, 31(59), 20 p. https://doi.org/10.7146/mediekultur.v31i59.20084