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“Lenless Horizon” (2021) Series. Top L to R: “Google Data Center. The Dalles, OR.”, “Microsoft Data Center. Quincy, WA.”, “Vantage Data Center. Quincy, WA.”, “Sabey Data Center. Quincy, WA.” Bottom L to R: “Amazon Data Center. Boardman, OR.”, “Amazon Data Center. Boardman, OR.”, “Facebook Data Center, Prineville, OR.”, “Apple Data Center. Prineville, OR.”

This work documents seven data centers dotted across the Pacific Northwest operated by Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon. It highlights the usurping of the camera by data centers: in each of these photographs the data centers graphically take the camera’s traditional place at the top of a tripod. As a series these photographs investigate the shifting landscape of images that is moving away from analog photography, and is moving towards a precedence of “network images” in image-making.

Network images are a form of computational photography in which the pre- or post-processing of digital image media takes place in distributed geographies. Network images are defined as a) any image this is uploaded to one of these services, b) any image that uses image analysis models trained in these data centers, or c) any image that borrows the “distributed computing” techniques embodied by the data center. …


According to Bruno Latour, it does not.

Latour, a philosopher, writes in the essay Some Experiments in Art and Politics, “…networks have no inside, only radiating connectors. They are all edges. They provide connections but no structure. One does not reside in a network, but rather moves to other points along the edges.”

The understanding of network as a mere nested series of smaller structures is old and outdated, for Latour. As he points out, it is rooted in a Renaissance prescription of the hierarchy of the universe known as scala naturae, which lays the ground for modernism, a movement which Latour is highly skeptical of. The scala naturae model is important to focus on as it describes a nature which is composed of a network of small things grouping up and forming larger ones: atoms to chemicals to molecules to cells to flesh to human, and so on. This Christian-originated visualization places God and the most lowly of living things (dirt, trees) on opposite ends of a vertical spectrum. …


The footprints of data centers

“Pollution is nothing but resources we’re not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we’ve been ignorant of their value.” Buckminster Fuller, I Seem To Be A Verb

Data exhaust are the footprints you leave behind as you go about your digital life.

Every action you take on a digital device is a footstep recorded in the sands of the metaverse. If you peruse the web, if you paint a canvas in Photoshop, if you open an app on your computer, you are generating many kinds of data exhaust: web cookies, image caches, and system logs. These files are the detritus of your being in a computer world. They are evidence of your virtual self having touched things with your mouse pointer; the alibi of having joined another realm. …


New media art includes all art made on computer programs, new technical instruments, and that which employs concepts such as “data” and “information”. That’s my definition for now.

Within new media art there might be two camps, two sub-styles. One camp leans hard into the “newness” effect of new media. Artists in this camp create artworks which experiment with unique forms of overlapping colors, high-frequency oscillation, geometric complexity, and much more. They use newly developed tools and repurpose them to create stuff that the makers of the tool did not necessarily intend. This camp revels in the surprise gifts uncovered through playing with these tools. …


Ingenic media could reveal and redefine what it means to be human. Can we control it?

This is an edited re-write of my original essay Ingenic and Exgenic Media. Thank you to Andrew Schwartz for editing the piece. This essay will be published on https://mangoprism.com/ later this month.

In 2019, Jak Wilmot livestreamed himself living a week in virtual reality. He ate with a VR headset on and didn’t take it off to sleep or to go to the restroom. When he showered he kept his eyes closed. …


A photobook of video game screenshots

Below is the introduction found at the start of the book.

Phil Kikawa is an avid modder of Skyrim, the open world RPG video game. He has added dozens of modifications to the game’s runtime code to make it look spectacular, in both life-like photorealistic ways, and in ways that are abstractly idyllic.

These images are of a genre I call “screenscapes.” This style of photography treats the screen not as a flat canvas but as a landscape with depth. It is a type of photography that requires deep meditation and mediation into the complexities and beauty of a virtual environment. It acknowledges the screen by going into it and feeling it. …


Computational photography as media literacy requirement

Browse through an IKEA catalog and you’ll see a spread of pristine kitchens, living rooms, and bedrooms, each cast with a warm blanket of sunlight. Stools, ottomans, and floor lamps rest stoically in the corner, and silverware sits perfectly knolled in drawers. The mise en scène is spotless.

These images are spotless perhaps because they are not photographs of real places. They are actually 3D renderings of virtual homes, entirely composed of bits and bytes. In 2005 IKEA snuck in its first 3D rendering of their chair “Bertil” into the catalog. No one noticed. By 2014, it was not just one chair: 75% of their catalog’s images were now computer generated. …


Making visible the terminology of computational photography

This realtime face-tracked filter enumerates a wide range of computational photography techniques that work behind the scenes to make face-tracked filters like this even possible. Computational photography is the object of analysis in this piece, through which I hope to illuminate how images are becoming increasingly processed by computers and further entwined with complex information systems.

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“Behind the Scenes”, 2020. SOOC Instagram Filter, made with Spark AR Studio.

The types of computational photography techniques listed range from simple image stacking, to AI-generating, 3D rendering, and image compressing, as well as techniques that utilize special hardware for multispectral capture, microscopic capture (such as protein imaging) and telescopic capture (such as deep astronomical imaging).

The font used to scribe each technique is Windsor, the title font used in the Whole Earth Catalog, a publication first distributed late 60’s. The Catalog was a zeitgeist work at the center of the then counter cultural movement and was used as a veritable Bible of all things environmental and technological. It became a groundwork text for the later dominant cyberculture, as historian Fred Turner argues, for it was widely read by early technologists in California’s Bay Area. …


“Conspiracy is Propaganda in Cosplay”

Conspiracy, from QAnon to “birds aren’t real”, is a staple weed on the public internet. Previously endemic to the public sphere, propaganda is being forced out of it natural habitat and being replaced by the rhizomatic proliferation of conspiracy after conspiracy. As more people spend time alone online in lockdown it is worth asking how the forms of conspiracy differ than that of propaganda.

Below I have jotted a scattered list of what I think constitutes the formal shape of these two modes of media distribution. …


An experimental type face demonstration

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A typical “floating window” display UI common in VR experiences.

I’ve used virtual reality on and off the past couple of years. Every time I re-enter it I become frustrated with the user interface in the operating system and other applications. The interface designs which are legible on screens, posters, and books do not translate well into spatial environments.

Take typography. It’s an excellent interface system for flat surfaces. Originally designed for the mass reproduction of texts on paper, the craft has always hailed legibility as its modus operandi. The seed purpose of type was to make information distributed and thus accessible.

But type often becomes less legible when looked at, tilted, in 3D space. After all a book has a “sweet spot” for optimum clarity which runs perpendicular and center to the page. Try to read a book by looking directly at the edge face of the page and you’ll have a hard time. Similarly in VR you must be at the “sweet spot” to use and see the interface properly. If the interface is not properly aligned, you’ll have to stumble blindly through your living room in real life just to get a look at the virtual window. …

About

tywen kelly

A student of Media Ecology. More work at https://www.instagram.com/tywensnotes/

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