DRIVEN BY DATA

Through its Data + Decisions Destination Area, Virginia Tech inventively interweaves data science into its curriculum. Meet a faculty member using data in novel and world-changing ways.

Sam Blanchard, associate professor and chair of the Studio Art Program, uses data to make art – offering a powerful visual representation of how technology can reshape our views of the world. His projects include a Crowd Sourced Sculpture Series, in which he patched together hundreds of tourist photos from a Google image search to recreate 3D-printed versions of iconic sculptural masterpieces like Michelangelo’s "David," Rodin’s "Thinker," and the "Venus de Milo."

The resulting sculptures are warped, incomplete, and mottled, reflecting how online sharing and various perspectives presented on the web can alter our views of fixed subjects. Source Form, a collaborative cross-disciplinary project with faculty across the university, is a collective internet image database of crowd-sourced images that allows users to 3D-print them in physical form.

“As people continue to take pictures and upload them to social media, blogs, and photo sharing sites, the database of images and resulting printed forms evolve in quality and quantity,” Blanchard said. “Source Form demonstrates that an increase in readily available image data closes the gap between physical and digital perceptions of three-dimensional form through time.”

— Written by Marya Barlow