A Sea of Data

Noise. Lines. Color patterns. According to leaked training manuals, one needs to apply all sorts of massively secret operations to produce these kinds of images.

But let me tell you something. I will decrypt this image for you without any secret algorithm … And I will even teach you ho to do it for free. Please focus very strongly on this image right now.

Doesn’t it look like a shimmering surface of water in the evening sun? Is this perhaps the “sea of data” itself? an overwhelming body of water, which one could drown in?

Hito Steyerl, Duty Free Art, 2017 (pp. 48-49)

The image and text above offered a starting point for today’s javascript coding exercise. As I haven’t coded before, I was suprised at how well it lended itself to recreation on the p5.js platform (and how addicting the process was).

I added multiple layers of randomised “noise” of various transparencies in order to recreate the shimmering surface of Steyerl’s “sea of data”. I also attached a cluster of slightly darker randomised rectangles to the mouse so that, as the mouse drags across the surface, it leaves something like a ripple that is eventually lost. Perhaps with more time I could add further ripples that are triggered by a mouse click…

While working on the exercise I was interested in the tension between surface and depth: it’s a tension that is present both when imagining the ocean and when thinking of data (and deep neural networks in particular).

Once again I find myself being very literal. Perhaps that’s natural when experimenting with a technology for the first time. Complexity and subversion come with more experience…

One response to “A Sea of Data”

  1. […] Alistair read out a wonderful piece by Hito Stereyl – refer here for more: https://befantastic.in/2020/10/22/a-sea-of-data/ […]

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