[-empyre-] "EARTH" and "Context Breeder"

for the sake of the archive, i reckon i post the work descriptions to
the list as well.


EARTH is a limited edition of software presented on eight multimedia
objects. Stand-alone EARTH includes a 15" LCD monitor, a hand-crafted
computer, and a trackball input device. Though making extensive use of
the internet, EARTH is not available as a free download, for both
technical and philosophical reasons.

The EARTH software accurately positions real-time data culled from the
Internet on a three-dimensional model of the Earth. Viewers are able to
travel from layer to layer by zooming in and retrieving imagery and data
for specific regions. From the outer to the inner layer, viewers

a detailed, three-dimensional outline of the earth?s coasts, based on
United States Geological Survey data. 

a spherical mapping of GOES-10 weather satellite imagery. 

LANDSAT-7 satellite imagery of the earth?s surface. 

topographical maps created from digital elevation data provided by the
military mapping agency. 
a local view of the earth?s terrain (the terrain geometry and textures
are generated dynamically from raw data files available from a US
military Web site). Here, viewers can "fly" through a five-degree by
five-degree patch of the earth?s terrain. 

the current local weather conditions on the terrain patch -- a visual
interpretation of weather from more than 6000 weather reporting stations
world-wide. Weather stations are identified by a red line and their
location. Visibility is translated into density of fog, while
temperature influences the color of the fog (blue=cold; red=warm). 

Presented as a complete hardware/software object, the entire dataset
exposed in this version is cached on the hard-drive, and if the system
has a live Internet connection, the cached data is suplemented by the
current online information. 

Context Breeder

Commissioned by Rhizome.org, Context Breeder creates an alternative,
genetics based interface for the Rhizome Artbase that is aimed at
creating context both for the artworks contained in the Artbase and for
users' interests. Users create genes out of 4 selected artobjects and
can then 'breed' their genes with others contained in the 'gene pool' to
create offspring -- new combinations of artworks. The fitness of a gene
is determined by the similarities between the artworks it contains.

Lets put aside the notion of Art for a moment and consider what this
commission is by definition -- an alternate interface into the Rhizome
Artbase.  In my mind, this means that the end result should have a
function, it should actually be useful in some way. To bring Art back
into the definition means that the function need not be "useful" in only
a practical sense. It does not need to improve upon an existing
methodology for Artbase access, because as Art, it is not a tool. Art
needs only to supply the unusual methodology.  However, I believe
Context Breed does improve Artbase access.  Minimally, it makes the
"surfing" experience more fluid.  At current count, the Artbase has
approximately 800 entries. Not a big number, but not a small number
either.  So if you do not have knowledge of net art, you don't know the
artists or the works, where do you start? Perhaps you would ask an
expert.  The interface might be a list of "top picks" or some such
thing. There might be a hit count, or slashdot vote mechanism. These
mechanisms are useful, but flawed. The expert has prejudices, or simply
doesn't have time to look at everything, so they only suggest works by
artists they already know.  Vote mechanisms are popularity contests. So
my goal in a functional sense, was to create an organic mechanism that
assembled a collection of works that relate to each other, and somehow
represent examples of key concepts in net art, without the assemblage
being the dogmatic choice of a single individual, or the "oppression of
public opinion" in a vote system. 

We often see in movies such as "Minority Report," fabulous interfaces
seamlessly providing precisely the information the user needs, in
glorious 3d, with effortless manipulation.  This seems in stark contrast
to the reality of the computer interfaces we actually have.  The reason
for this is twofold -- we don't have equipment actually capable of
presenting data in these fabulous ways, and we don't have the mental
capacity to utilize such an interface if it did exist. So my goal as far
as presenting the data, was to do so in an a-typical way, in a way that
did not suggest any of the interface metaphors we are accustomed to, and
perhaps debilitated by. I don't mean to suggest that my C-breed
interface is that glorious interface of Hollywood, but I do think, like
glasbead, it is a necessary first step in that direction.  A technical
aside (my standard grump): Being required to write the thing in Java
means that it is much less of that glorious interface than if I could
have executed it in the platform and software of my choice. In other
words, the oppression of public opinion.

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