Student Perspectives: How much data exists in a split second? | A reflection on Forensic Architecture’s investigation on the killing of Mark Duggan

The Student Perspectives category collects posts written by current CityLIS students.

Renée Gaillard considers the ethical use of data in criminal investigations, inspired by DITA discussions and a presentation she independently attended delivered by Forensic Architecture (FA) – a research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London, investigating human rights violations. –


How much data exists in a split second?

Photo of Forensic Architecture’s presentation showcasing the data analysis of the officers’ reports.

Spoiler alert: a lot.

Protestor with placard calling for justice for Mark Duggan

Justice for Mark Duggan

During a recent INM348: Data Information Technologies and Applications (DITA) class (at #CityLIS), we reflected on potential ethical dilemmas which opened up a discussion of several upsetting examples of individuals, groups and companies that do not always seem to ethically use data. At a point in the discussion, Professor Lyn Robinson mentioned police brutality and I immediately thought about Mark Duggan. More specifically, I thought about the presentation I saw from Forensic Architecture (FA) – a research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London, investigating human rights violations. Throughout my DITA lecture which explored how we conceptualize data, my mind kept coming back to this presentation – to this investigation – on the killing of Mark Duggan by the Metropolitan Police on 4 August 2011.

The presentation was a part of an event, “The People’s Verdict”, which was hosted alongside the exhibition, War Inna Babylon, which was curated by Kamara Scott, Rianna Jade Parker, and Stafford Scott (Tottenham Rights) and designed by Abi Wright. It was a brilliant exhibition and event overall, but the most heart-wrenching and enlightening part of it was the presentation. In a brief summary from my own recollection: the Forensic Architecture (FA) team introduced their work by exploring the concept of the ‘split second’ which has often been the justification for police officers to use violence against people – in this case, Mark Duggan. Their extensive investigation focused in on those few seconds between the police stopping the minicab and Mark Duggan being shot to death. There was no video footage of these exact seconds (only after the shooting) so an accurate telling of the incident was primarily based on the reports of the eight police officers – who all made their reports together in the same room which would not be typical procedure for any regular witness. Talk about ethical, huh?

Photograph of slide from presentation, showing analysis of car movement..

Forensic Architecture (FA) pulled information from these reports, visuals, testimonies and more to reconstruct those few deadly seconds into a virtual reality environment from the eyes of several perspectives. In the cover photo of this article, you can see an immense amount of text along with highlighted sections. These were the words of all the officers in their reports categorised by each moment – from when the minicab stopped to after both shots. The areas in yellow were sections of the data that noted “coordination” in the reports, such as the police officers claiming that the minicab was gold – despite the visuals that seem to prove otherwise. The areas in blue were noted as “special reconstruction” which were areas of the data that described where everyone was placed. The areas in red noted “contradictions” which were areas of the data that seemed to conflict with other parts of the data or reports such as who actually saw the gun, when, and where. FA had continued to present shocking examples about how this data did or didn’t add up to what was believed about the incident and what was reported by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in their investigation. They closed out by offering the audience a chance to virtually experience the renderings from the various perspectives for themselves.

Slide from presentation summary

Unfortunately, there is a truth of this incident (and many more like it) that can never be proven. Nonetheless, Forensic Architecture showed me how much data can truly in live in only a “split second”, how it can be analysed and then presented in a way that is accessible for anyone. This kind of data use and dissemination is both enlightening and empowering for people to see it for themselves, develop their own findings, and utilize this information in the continued fight for truth and justice.

For more details of the incident and the investigation (including the virtual reality renderings), view the report here:

Note: This article was published as a part of an exercise for CityLIS’ INM348 DITA module.

Follow Renée on LinkedIn  (where this article was published) or visit her digital space (

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