Lev Manovich says this about data mapping as the "anti-sublime", the title term at the heart of his essay:
"If Romantic artists thought of certain phenomena and effects as un-representable, as something which goes beyond the limits of human senses and reason, data visualisation artists target the exact opposite: to map such phenomena into a representation whose scale is comparable to the scales of human perception and cognition."
I thought this was an incredibly poetic way of expressing the work of data visualization artists in the context of artistic intent. Data visualization strives to make sense of non-legible, often times large amounts of non-visual information into digestible visuals that somehow make sense to human perception. Yet, he makes another distinction between traditional represenational forms of data and data as art--he states that along with deference for the anti-sublime, perhaps a crucial role of data mapping is
to show us other realities embedded in our own, to show us the ever-present ambiguity in our perception and experience, to show us what we normally don't notice or don't pay attention to."
I found these closing remarks interesting. I always thought data visualization needed to have a concrete purpose, in conveying "actual" data to the observer; but then I realized it was necessary to define what "actual" data meant to me personally. Perhaps simple-mindedly, I classified the purpose of data visualization as a means to an end, and not the end itself--a visualization must "map some abstract and impersonal data into something meaningful and beautiful." so to say. It must lead to comprehension and some action as a result. I never thought of it as an art form (or at least I never thought I would pursue it as that), and that the visualization of the data itself could be the end.
Yet data mapping is being pursued by many artists, and the plethora of data to map is infinite. It was especially informative to have examples of artists and works listed. It reminded me of the Whitney Museum's exhibit, Programmed: Rules, Codes, and Choreographies in Art, which showcases artists who have used the medium of programming to explore conceptual art.