Focusing in on the Mural part of Data Murals

Last year we finished our Data Mural pilot projects, and have been very happy with how the evaluation has looked.  We’ve judged things against our logic model, to assess how we’re doing against our desired outcomes. One of the outcomes we listed was a “more beautiful community”.  Now, of course that is subjective, but if you look at the murals we painted I think most would say they are nice community art pieces.


That said, we focused so much on the capacity building outcomes that we didn’t make time to innovate on the artistic output.

I’ve recently been wondering if we can bring some new technologies back into this in a useful way.  One idea was to explore conductive paints in the mural.  I think there’d some really cool interactions we could make to help tell the data story.  Bringing some of my museum exhibit design experience to bear in this space would be fun. Maybe by picking a handprint to touch on the mural you light up some part of the mural that applies to you?

I dug around and the best example I can find of using conductive paint in a mural is the Light of Human Kindness project (here’s a great video about it).  The community project collected stories of good deeds and built them into a mural and website.  The mural is on a big wall with tons of lights embedded in it, each representing a story.  When you submit a story online one of the lights blinks.  They added an interesting interaction around the idea of people holding hands in front of it.  If a lot of folks hold hands, with one person in the chain touching the mural, then the lights play a pattern.

Yes, it is a lightweight interaction, but it still carries that sense of magic.  I love that they linked the overall message of the mural with the interaction (ie. holding hands and helping each other).  I think it’s time to start doing some experiments here, because conductive paint feels like a way to innovate in support of the data story but still be true to the mural form.