Our planet’s sustainability is under serious threat. As the 21st century progresses, new networks and interconnections are being reinforced which impact the relationships we humans impose on our most immediate surroundings, the environment. Among the risks which call into question the fragile balance of our ecosystem and directly influence climate change are: the increasing greenhouse effect due to excess carbon dioxide emissions (CO2 ); destruction of the ozone layer; loss of forest cover; and erosion, desertification and devastation of the rain forest. Quantifying the impact of these indicators by means of data helps us to understand and be able to devise methods of environmental management.
 NARRATIVE FRAMEWORK
Forest fires constitute an environmental warning sign and represent a great danger to the survival of the planet, in most cases causing devastating effects which require many years to recover from. Our investigation was initially founded on a series of questions: Are we truly aware of the damage caused by fires? What are the causes and consequences of the fact that our planet is constantly burning? How do the fires start? What effect do wildfires have on climate change? What data identify the true toll of the fire disasters that occur around the planet each year? There can be no doubt that we are assailed by many questions, which we will try to address over the course of this paper.
The primary objective of this artistic investigation is to demonstrate the wounds suffered by the Earth’s crust due to the enormous number of active fires occurring on it, accidentally or on purpose. This aim is achieved by means of three-dimensional data visualization through the sculptural language of installation, together with new technologies. [MAFD] :: Mapping Active Fire Data reflects on the questions set out above, presenting the viewer with a dynamic and interactive cartographic visualization of locations and data for active wildfires around the world within the time frame of the last decade (2008–2017).
 SCIENTIFIC BACKGROUND
A study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has shown that humans burn an average of 175 million acres of forest each year, with almost 84% of wildfires being caused by human carelessness. Some of the most intensive biomass burning activities are associated with deforestation and grassland management in South America, Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. Since most biomass burning in the tropics is limited to a burning season, the temporal and spatial concentration of emissions are expected to have a noticeable impact on atmospheric chemistry and climate in the tropics, and globally as a result of increased trace gas emissions and the direct and indirect radiative effects of smoke aerosols.
Faced with this menacing outlook, scientists need better measurements of how much area burns every year so they can better understand the roles fire plays in Earth’s environment—how it changes the land surface, how it impacts life and the health of ecosystems, and how it changes the chemistry of the atmosphere. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard satellites controlled by NASA has produced an online tool to allow researchers from all over the world open access to this information. The fire maps are helping scientists to better understand Earth’s environment and climate system.
 VISUAL FRAMEWORK
In today’s society, it is possible to state that we are data and that we are made up of data. It thus seems that understanding the reality around us involves a visual decoding/recoding of the data that define any peripheral environment inherent to human beings in order to get to its rudimentary form, its most immediate version.
In a scientific or educational sphere, as well as the world of communication, information based on data, whether they are numerical or statistical, is usually complex and difficult to assimilate.
As visualization taxonomies, diagrams and graphics allow us to make a much quicker and more visual interpretation of the information to be processed, highlighting the relationship between the different elements of a whole or a complex system. By working with data in visual form, we can spot patterns of behaviour capable of establishing new connections between them, diagrammatic narratives which position nodes and links in the complex network of relationships in contemporary society.
From a technological perspective, Card, Mackinlay and Shneiderman (1999) identify three fundamental aims of data visualization: to discover or explore (looking for interesting relationships, trends and phenomena); to make decisions (validating or refuting hypotheses); and to explain (presenting information to others). These authors define information visualization as the use of interactive representations of visual data supported by a computer with the aim of increasing cognition (this last being understood as the acquisition or use of knowledge). Additionally, and from a comunicational perspective, visualization is an effective aid for communicating ideas, transforming abstract data and complex phenomena from reality into visible messages that make it possible to comprehend the hidden meaning of the information associated with data and phenomena which are not directly perceptible.
 PROPOSITIONAL AND TECHNICAL FRAMEWORK
The [MAFD] :: Mapping Active Fire Data project is based on the concepts discussed above, offering viewers an artistic, dynamic and cartographic visualization of the worldwide wildfires which occurred over the past decade. The aim of the project is to produce a visualization code which interprets the scientific data collected as visual metaphors through the use of technology. The final installation is an immersive sculpture where the visitor can interact and immerse himself into the visualized data. [MAFD] is based on a descriptive–correlational–interactive methodology: descriptive, in that the visualization of wildfire data is represented in a cartographic medium; correlational, because it demonstrates how data, images and graphics are related or linked; and interactive, as it allows the viewer to select the data by time period (year) and format (days/weeks). At the same time, the project is based on reasoning associated with the art–science–technology triad.
The scientific sources:
The data gathered have been compared with other similar resources in order to filter for the information relating to active fires around the planet over the last decade (2008–2017), with the aim of offering the most up-to-date picture of the state of the question. The filters were applied according to number of kilometres damaged, duration of the fire, year and location, in order to establish a comparison between each continent and the rest of the planet, the relative versus the entirety. During the production phase, analogue and digital techniques were used, with the focus of experimentation being sculptural language. The physical medium of the installation was created using borosilicate glass, wood fibre, LEDs and methacrylate, among other materials. The digital manufacturing techniques employed were computer numerical control (CNC) and laser engraving and cutting. A technological component was also utilized, which was essential to the installation, as it provides dynamism while simultaneously introducing different narrative layers.
By using the pixel mapping technique, it has been possible to obtain a cartographic visualization of fires in the central piece, employing the following hardware: Enttec Pixelator Mini and Plink Injector; and the following mapping software :: ELM (Enttec Light Mapping) which allowed us to create a world map with Leds. The interaction of the touch screens on the graphic atrils was achieved using Arduino open-source microcontroller boards.
All these elements are controlled together by the software :: Touchdesigner, a developing platform to create interactive and immersive media installations.
[MAFD] :: Planisphere and [MAFD] :: Graphic Atril (2008–2017) are the main core of the project. This sculptural, light and interactive installation gathers and three-dimensionally visualizes the data on active fires over the past decade. It is a dot matrix device, conceived as a screen of three-dimensional pixels, where the dynamic evolution of wildfires during the time frame under investigation is represented by the reflection of the light on the glass. Using clear glass rods, [MAFD] :: Planisphere presents the Earth’s planisphere in its azimuthal projection of geographic coordinates, taking latitude and longitude into account. The different heights of the glass interpret, by means of their elevation, the areas with the most wildfire activity (taller rods). As a whole, they form a bar chart which makes it possible to project a red dot symbolizing an active fire in the geographic area on the tip using an optical effect of the transmission of light through the glass. Connected to this central core are ten structures, [MAFD] :: Graphic Atril (2008–2017), which display monthly data and graphics for each year covered, based on three parameters: burned area, CO2 emissions, and fire count. This triad of variables is constructed three-dimensionally in the form of a datascape, reinforcing its profile using reflected light effects on the polished methacrylate side.
The viewer can interact with the core of the installation using a touch screen located on each of the lecterns, choosing the display of fires in a specific year (by day, month, maximum and minimum). Light and new technologies play a major role in the installation, being responsible for the project’s interactivity and dynamism. Lastly, there is a sound element, which allows viewers to immerse themselves in an enveloping environment, creating an acoustic mise-en-scène of burning forests.
Nowadays we have the technical possibilities and the knowledge to show our own human imperfection and to create a planet earth worth living for all creatures. With [MAFD] we want to visualize the macrocosm of the Earth’s ecosystem, understandable to our own microcosm.
Artistic language activates a macroscopic magnifying glass in order to obtain a much more complete view of something which affects us directly and constantly: forest fires given their clear and ongoing effects on the balance–imbalance of the Earth’s ecosystem. It operates as a tool to activate sensibilities, awareness and questioning.