Liam Young, 09 05 11


From the Data Archaeology Lab in the Architectural Association’s Unknown Fields Division 09/10 Arctic Circle studio run by TTT’s Liam Young and Kate Davies comes Data Fossils by Tobias Jewson. Tobias has evolved his data fossils experiments from the intimate and personal attachments that calcify on our own bones into a vast digital geology of an internet archive cast into layers of volcanic glass across Iceland’s deserts. In the digital era our information no longer takes the form of the physical, but that of a electronic file stored in ‘the cloud’. Our collective history is quickly effaced from this fragile and ephemeral domain, a computer crashes, formats are quickly obsolete, a hard drive is lost and all is gone. With our attachment to physical objects and mementos becoming increasingly superseded by our relationship to information, what will we leave for future generations?

Our collective history can be deposited in columns and strata of earth – where once archivists trawled the library stacks, data geologists now roam the Icelandic landscape. Like climate records trapped in ice cores data archiving can also become a geological process. In southern Iceland the division found a ravaged landscape of eroding lava deserts- a desolate crust hiding beneath it extraordinary geothermal resources that now support huge investments in an emerging national industry of data storage and server farms. Data Geologies rehabilitate this damaged landscape by co opting these investments in technology and reimaging the Icelandic typology of data archives.

A suite of new software applications that subvert existing digital prototyping machines to encode the ephemera of the digital world into ever evolving architectural landscapes. Hoards of machines traverse the lava deserts, scraping loose sand from the surface, and under immense heat transforming it into elaborate glass like geometries, within which our recent internet activities are encased. Programs are developed to encode data inputs into structural building elements.

Simulation software is developed for the realtime growth of data geology from live twitter streams.

Informational topographies grow based and cluster on keyword inputs. The drugs keyword feed is especially active from late evening to early morning.

Topsoil blown by the harsh arctic winds soon gathers in the lee side of these immense structures, the grounded geological layer sprouting grass and moss. Over time, habitats will grow in the glimmering hollows as fields of data slowly reverse Icelandic soil erosion. Local Islanders read the growth of this landscape from afar, whilst archaeologists look close ,using advanced MRI scanners, searching for insights into our past. Information enthusiasts scan google earth sattelite images, deciphering geographies of data from across the globe.

People pilgrimage to this area known to hold the last data relating to flurry of internet activity from the day Michael Jackson died. It becomes an informational cathedral, a spatial obituary grown from a real time data feed.

And while tourists might flock to see history in the making archaeologists will read the dull fragments of frozen silica as records of our digital pasts.


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