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John Hopkins

All phenomenon have the potential of being converted into infinite data-streams which become an archive of knowledge through which it is possible to organize social behavior.

Vholoce is one project in a long line of projects which seeks to creatively engage the ubiquitous data-streams that are flooding our virtual world. The rising flood of data is useless without sensible display. Visual (and sonic) display of digital data is a fundamental contemporary issue. But what is sensible display? Using a data stream as a basically random source for visual display is one way to play with the stream. The syntax of visual display (possibly) becomes the site for expression by the creative producer. The data-stream source, the method of (and reason for) display, and the overall creative process need to be interrogated in order to find the basis for the type of digital engagement.

For the visual consumer, is it worth learning somewhat arbitrary visual display systems if the only outcome is the time-intensive distraction of indoor eye-candy? Maybe that is the norm in this era of time-intensive gazing ‘out’ through indoor ‘windows.’

What did the Creek tribe’s word for cloud (or cloudy), vholoce, refer to? That which crosses the sky? That which brings rain, that which changes the colors of the world as it passes, that which clings to the ground in the morning? That which dances around the sun, that which covers the sky, that which imitates the forms of all things, spirits? What did the word mean to them, how did it operate in their system of being — as an evocation of life, or merely tacit knowledge? I wonder how a member of the tribe, in centuries past, viewed language. What function did that abstracted vocalization take on in the continuum of being in the world. Did the Creek have written language? Most likely they transmitted important knowledge through oral narrative. Did they value re-presentations of their world more highly than the world itself? How did they re-present a world that was simply an extension of the continuum of embodied presence?

The Creek definitely did not have windows, and except for sitting inside some kind of hand-built enclosed structure they could not escape the weather. They could not see the manifestations of the weather when inside. Hear and feel, yes, but not see. They generally experienced weather as a full-bodied set of sensations.

In places and times other than pre-Colonial North America, I may sit inside and watch the weather outside the window. There is a word in Icelandic gluggavethri meaning window weather. This suggests a kind of weather where it is much more comfortable sitting on the inside of the window than on the outside. Windows came to Iceland early, but glass was a premium commodity, so the half-underground sod huts of early Iceland might have only one 15 x 15 cm window set in a wooden door at one end of the hut. Better to be watching out this window than experiencing the full-bodied wrath of a winter storm, a rok, a storm with the power to remove life from the body. By putting the sheet of silicon dioxide between the body and the storm, a sort of virtual world appeared — one that could be seen but not felt. Toasty warm inside with the sheep, blizzard outside. A virtual situation is one where the full range of sensory contact is attenuated through some technology.

Science is a collective process of observation of the world along with the creation, testing, and refining of reductive models against what is observed. Science is not data. Data is a by-product of science. Technological development (not science) brings us devices which read the sky and other phenomena. The data is the detritus of automated observation, the excretions of these data collecting devices. The data coming from measurements of atmospheric systems is not science. Humans construct devices to read the world because they do not trust their own sensory input: if they miss something, or make a mistaken reading, they might die. This reading process is a reductive process, a mapping, it is not the phenomena itself. We can read material aspects of the atmosphere, even the microscopic constituents of the flux of things that we toss into suspension in it from our technological development. The notes from these readings are, at first, analog corollaries to what is being read, in a temporal or spatial framework. Voltages, deflections, alterations, charges, changes in time — distances, depths, widths, heights, volumes, masses. With the weather, the changes are in thermal activity, velocities, pressure, precipitation — generally changes in the states of the envelope of high-energy particles that surrounds the harder stuff that we walk upon.

So, it is worth pointing out that there are several levels of synthesis or removal happening here? First there is the flux of weather itself, then an analog device is used that reacts with that flux of energies. The change in the analog device is most probably measured electro-mechanically. The results of this electro-mechanical deflection is converted to an electronic signal which is then converted to a digital numeric value. This number is then related back to the original analog device and calibrated to give a ‘sensible’ number — that is, a reading that we might make sense of. These numbers are then compiled and posted via a global network to end users who might read those alphanumeric codes to ascertain whether or not to go outside or to carry an umbrella if doing so: rather than poking a head out the window and taking a sniff, a look, and making a prognostication as to the future.

Reading is as critical in our system of social control as is writing. Now we have machines that are reading and writing for us. What does this mediation bring us? What are the lessons of the mediated narratives? Are they the same as the narratives of the stories told to us by others? Are they the same as the knowledge gained by direct sensory experience and insight?

We now store these stories as data in data spaces. Volumes of data packed as zeros and ones on a magnetized disk. Zero and one stories. We can retrieve these stories and tell them in time, as a narrative, or out of time, as a simple data space fly-through. Either way, they form streams. These data streams flow in the culture-scape.

The sky feeds us one temporal way, the screen feeds us another:

Watching cloud streams flow in the land-scape brings a knowing that indeterminacy is a ground state of being. Watching water streams brings us to dreams of the unknown — that-which-will-become. The sky is the present, when we allow the radiation from the stars to leak into our body system. It is an arrival in the moment that carries us into the future.

Watching data-streams flow in the culture-scape brings a knowing of social relation. Watching data streams brings us to dreams of that-which-has-been made. Data streams surround us, bind us in visible waves. Susserations that sooth the harsh realities of the day. Mediation is about the past. When the weather system is in rising chaos, who wants to watch? Better to close the door, latch the window and watch the silicon dioxide screen. The Outside is dangerous. Unpredictable.