Sébastien Pierre is a software engineer, designer, and co-founder of FFunction, a Montreal-based studio specializing in information design. While studying design at the University of Strasbourg, he applied his programming experience to create interactive visualizations of his Delicious.com data and became fascinated with the different ways to represent information. Later on, he co-founded FFunction to help make data visualization a useful tool for businesses and organizations to better understand their environment and improve their communication. Sébastien is actively involved in the local open-data community, working on how to use data visualization to help improve society and prevent political corruption.
Exhibited work: ‘Invisible Islands’
“Worldwide, privacy is challenged while our dependency on networks is increasing. Governments and corporations are massively harvesting personal data. Citizens need to take back some control to preserve freedom of information.
Based on the simple idea of tying information to the physical space, Invisible Islands looks at how citizens can use inexpensive hardware and wireless networks to create information islands that allow to openly share information while preserving privacy.
Disconnected from the Internet, the information available in each Island is only access through QR codes displayed in the public space, thus creating a naturally sheltered medium for the community to share and interact in the public space.”
Exhibited work: ‘Les Îles Invisibles’
Starts at Saint-Laurent metro station
“Rediscover Montreal with this interactive tour. Using your smartphone as a compass, decode 72 fragments of a hidden history by exploring the 16 sites of the Quartier des Spectacles, and reconstruct the past, present and future. Consult the map of the area, follow the symbols to reach the different sites and look around: codes on the ground will reveal snippets of history. To begin the experience, locate the Îles invisibles terminals in the Quartier des Spectacles and follow the instructions.”
Exhibited work: ‘Invisible Islands’
“Worldwide, privacy is challenged while our dependency on networks increases. In a time when governments and corporations are continuing to harvest massive amounts of personal data, citizens need to take back some control to preserve freedom of information.
Leveraging inexpensive hardware, WiFi networks and open-source software, the Invisible Islands are small devices that create a localized digital overlay. Based on the simple idea of tying information to physical space, the Islands are a naturally sheltered medium for the community to share and interact in public space.”
What aspect of your allotted Human Futures theme do you most engage with in relation to your own practice?
“The digital space is becoming more and more embedded in our everyday life. Largely unseen, because it has no physical embodiment, it is growing day by day: more data is being produced and collected, more nodes are added to the Internet and cellular networks. With mobile devices and GPS, we’ve created bridges between the physical and the virtual. I find these points of contact fascinating, because they act as portals between both worlds and blur the border between the experiential and the digital.”
How do you envisage collaboration and exchange being utilised within your proposed project?
“With Invisible Islands, the project is not so much about creating a concrete, tangible piece, but rather creating a new medium out of the intersection between physical & digital. As a result, the collaborative aspect is a key element of the project, where citizens are invited to use the platform as a medium to share information. This opens up to interesting questions: how do we kick start a new medium and give incentive for people to use it? How will content differ between groups of different people?”
What was your initial response to this project’s title, ‘Human Futures: Shared Memories and Visions’? What role can artists play in the exploration of ‘futures’?
“I read a lot of sci-fi and because I fell in love with computers early on, the word “future” invariably rhymes with “technology” for me. A recurring sci-fi theme is how humans could become enslaved, if not destroyed by technology (usually in the form of terminator-esque robots), which, in a way, framed the project with the perspective of using technology to preserve the good aspects of humanity. While Internet shattered the barriers of access to information, it is slowly being used as a vector for mass-surveillance. Conceptually, this misuse of technology seemed like the natural starting point for Invisible Islands.”