Civic Theatre presents The Big Data Show at the Edinburgh Science Festival

Civic Theatre’s exciting free and very educational Big Data Show takes place again online as part of the Edinburgh Science Festival 2021 – I already saw it in February and happily join a second time. As someone who has slid into jobs in the tech industry by pure chance, my hopes to learn a thing or two are fulfilled both times.

In preparation, the audience is asked to download the Super Swipe app before the show starts – be warned, Swipe is playable immediately afterwards on your smartphone, and the game and its synth sounds addictive. And this proves indeed a point: This show educates anyone from the age of 11 onwards to be cyber resilient and to own their digital citizenship, while also embracing the retro-gaming trend wholeheartedly.

Ready, steady, swipe… the second screen is optional at The Big Data Show but fun

Self-declared digital magicians Bug and Cy lead us in their charming Scottish accents in the next 65 minutes through the codex of ethical hacking – which means nothing bad, just “making something into something else.” Otherwise, you would have been compromised, claim these hackers for the good. Philosophical disputes about secrecy vs. privacy follow, the price each value has, historic BBC footage and puzzle games of when Prince Philip’s email account got hacked in the 1980s and sole telecommunication provider BT was not protected, despite his clearly monopolist position back then. Cases like these point out how neither the law, Margaret Thatcher or high court judges could keep up with the velocity of data and cyberspace in general – an almost crime story in which the culprit has not committed a defined crime. So when a bunch of teenagers claim “I can hack you” and is not being believed, then prove their statement from their bedroom… are they innocent? Even today, the law is often not equipped to answer the never-ending hunger of the data harvesters pulling its string.

In the 30+ years since, the internet has become synonymous with the world wide web (that was not always the case) and has evolved from zeros and ones to emojis and raining cats. Plenty has been written about the new oil, and data been defined as an energy ever surrounding us which cannot be destroyed, just changed. A shocking statistic shared here still haunts me: If you’d read all terms and conditions, you every agreed to by signing or through a click, you would have spent 69.7 years just reading these. A stinging example: Reading the T&Cs of the app of this show would have taken you 45 minutes. Ouch. Another statistic proves Facebook paid $30 per Instagram user when acquiring it – the internet, that new DNA of our daily lives, is watching us. It should not be so easy for the big data giants to gain your secrets so easily, even slyly: All data collected can become, once put together correctly, the novel of your life. 

The message is clearly “be cautious”. But despite that, The Big Data Show closes on a positive: The internet is available – let’s make it amazing! Because with the right hacks, you can make the internet yours (again).

Playwright Clare Duffy and co-creator and hacker legend Rupert Goodwins on one of the best press pictures I have ever seen

**** out of 5 stars

Written and created by Clare Duffy and Rupert Goodwins

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