Smoking Gun is a piece of
Over the course of the game, your detective work uncovers incendiary information which could bring down a controversial public figure. You – and the others playing, who you can chat with online – must decide whether you go public. But who and what can you trust?
Smoking Gun takes popular elements of detective thrillers and grounds them in data: in order to get beyond ‘post-truth’, the player must evaluate the conflicting claims of different characters and see how they measure up to
Smoking Gun is collaboration between artists Rachel Briscoe, Dan Barnard and Joe McAlister and Data Stories Tech Project from the University of Southampton. It is a playful and interactive approach exploring the power of data in the age of disinformation. You are invited to solve puzzles, scrutinize documents, wrangle datasets and chat about the evidence with fellow players to uncover what is really going on at the heart of government. The objective is to see how people engage with data if it’s made meaningful to them through narrative and game mechanisms.
Using data as part of the story and invite audiences to engage with is what Smoking Gun is all about. But, what else can be asked people to do with data? The residency is based upon an interaction design perspective approach that would appeal to a diverse range of people, not just those who were already interested in data or digital art. It is also a construction that audience members are able to discover through the clues that they received over the course of the five days of the piece. A list of all the different possible types of data (e.g. graphs, spreadsheets, financial accounts, computer UUID logs, security camera photos etc.) was created in order to find the best format of data, and the best order to include in the narrative. The team researched a lot on how to make the evidence data as authentic as possible. They worked on the creation of evidence data using a variety of media and a variety of processes to create an app and adjusting it according to feedback from the prototype versions.
What the team was really looking at was the way in which the public consume and engage with the artwork itself. The outcomes of the residency are: an interactive digital artwork that is available to the public that can be experienced via smartphones or tablets, an in-depth knowledge exchange between the academic and artistic partners and the creation of a platform for research into collaborative data analysis. Smoking Gun is a platform framework for telling yet more stories about data. And it can be re-used on the exploration of additional stories covering new topics including data privacy, targeted advertisements, and "fake news", as well as exploring the depth of communication methods available to participants.
Interview with FanSHEN at CENTQUATRE-Paris, during the STARTS Residencies Days 2020