FantasyPeak2 JPG Toward a Digital Geology | Drain Magazine

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FantasyPeak2.JPG: Toward a Digital

Some propose that the of the earth is a giant lump of Others, backed by pulse claim it is molten rock:

It’s not.

The center of the is data, ones and zeros in a black abyss.

I’ve spending a lot of time in Earth’s lately. It’s an immersive environment, put on goggles and you’re The world of Earth’s Edge the form of a deep and broad encircled by a ring of jagged, mountain peaks. In the valley, are regions of high desert, all and granite tumblers—kestrels flying and jackrabbits ducking through the There are hot springs, bubbling and lush green meadows in the where the rivers slow to a drawl.

There’s a lot to do in Earth’s . I walk around for hours in the picking flowers and medicinal Dragon’s Tongue Orchids, thistles, red mountain flowers and grapes. I catch butterflies—Monarchs and and Luna moths. I skip on the lake, go fishing sometimes for and, if the season is right, Sometimes I go on hikes. I’ll out at Emerald Lake and follow the up into the mountains, past the grasses give way to snow and holly berries. I’ve run into one, but you have to out for bears. If one comes along, say to make a lot of noise, to yell and and try to make yourself as big as possible, wave some sticks or something.

It gets dark at and it’s usually best to get to camp rather than around in the moonlight—just safer, and with a fire. I roll a out and sleep under the open The stars come out if there’s no cover, and the fireflies. I watch the moons arc across the dome of and if the conditions are right there’s an of borealis color.

I’ve the mistake of digging once or in search of medicinal roots or of precious metals. If you dig far enough, break through the upper of soil.

You’ll break and it’ll come pouring out an oil strike, a gusher, a big one. The data stream, an endless river. Ones and zeros eye-searing white in a palpable dense and clotted. You can reach in, but nothing to touch. Nothing to


Based on research conducted at the Bar University in Israel circa the structure of the Internet follows a similar to that of the Earth, a dense core, a semi-viscous and an outer crust. The research the connection between Internet “computer networks of Internet Providers that act as relay for carrying information.” The structure consists of a dense core of 80 critical nodes, a mantle-like of approximately 15,000 peer-connected, nodes, and an outer crust of 5,000 sparsely connected that would, if the inner were removed, become, Visual representation of the at the Autonomous Systems (AS) . Courtesy Shai Carmi.

In Barrett Lyon embarked on The Project, the goal of which was to a visual model of the entire via a custom program “using checks to create a list of IP space.”[2] Lyon takes authorship in the images generated by the most notably in the spherical and usage of color to distinguish address suffixes, global or other parameters. The images by Opte are intricate web-like dotted with small of dense network hubs. the models generated by the researchers at Bar Lyon’s maps resemble the layers of the earth, with a core, widely connected and a sparse crust of isolated and terminal points.

Barrett The Opte Project, Nov 23, 2003 . The Opte Project.

This is a sort of mirroring, unintentional on the part of the designers of the as the Internet has grown and evolved beyond those early plans. This is akin to modeling of a flying machine on the structure of pigeons, or the 2006 Bionic, a concept car modeled on the Like the Earth, the structural of the Internet is constantly shifting. a geology not of mineral and stone, but of data, and aesthetics, following similar to those found in geology of ejection, subduction and

The topographical features that up this digital earth are shifting, undergoing geological at an accelerated rate. Certain rise up, thrust upward the shifting of surface plates as other locales are subducted the mantle, lost or reforming. their “Double-Click Ad Planner” Google has compiled an annual of the 1000 most-visited sites on the web certain types of sites, as Google itself and adult sites). As of July 2011, the top ten include Facebook, YouTube,,, Wikipedia, Baidu,, and[4] are the current Everest, K2, Makalu and of the digital sphere, peaks of rising out of the data swarm.

held the slot of top social-networking from 2005-2008, in 2006 Google as the site with the unique U.S. visitors. rose in ascendency following its opening in 2006, and in 2009 Myspace in the number of unique visitors. One could almost the slow slide of Myspace obsolescence, eventually settling its current incarnation as a social-networking of bands, musicians, and celebrity PR

The surface of this digital composed of those easily and locatable web-locales, occupies one percent of the total global of data. This one percent is the that is easily indexed by engines by extracting keywords the HTML content of the site. this thin layer of run a vast underground network of and caves, of speakeasies and secret The region of the Internet known, in circles, as The Deep Web consists of to access information and data. data is bypassed or over-looked by engines and traditional web browsers. of this content is held in that are not indexed by search for technical or business reasons. is hidden information, accessible to deep data-miners, diggers, or with the proper map.[5]

the data streaming through The Web is difficult to access, this is not necessarily by design. There as well, certain sectors of networks that are locked to users, accessible only to with the access key. networks were specifically to maintain exclusivity, privacy, and The early Internet evolved out of a developed by the United States’ Processing Techniques Office and Research Projects Agency. early networked system, debuted in 1969 for use in information between sectors of the Unites Department of Defense.[6] The Defense has utilized, since that a series of sub-surface networks remain inaccessible by surface In 1995, replacing the DDN DSNET1, the States Government adopted the Internet Protocol Router (SIPRNET) for the transfer of sensitive classified materials up to, and including, the “Secret.”[7] In all likelihood, this has been deemed obsolete times over, its tunnels caved in and collapsed, with more secure networks in its place—layer upon layer of detritus and abandoned secrets the surface of the digital earth.

a similarly secreted, discretionary web of is the Tor network, a hidden sub-stratum of the accessible to the general public specialized, freely available Tor describes itself as a “network of tunnels that allows and groups to improve their and security on the Internet.”[8] It is, in essence, a market occupying the abandoned of the Internet, where commerce and deals, both licit and are struck.

Tor was initially designed as a onion-routing project of the United Naval Research Laboratory for the of protecting government communications. The system evades traffic surveillance of users’ actions on the by routing those actions a network of encrypted links various Internet nodes. than establishing a direct between user computer A and server S, Tor will run the communication a complex and constantly shifting between many nodes, both the source and destination of the exchange. This anonymous of underground tunnels caters to a of users, and lends itself to a of applications. The network has been to establish Internet access in of censorship, including 2011-2012 to provide a forum for the purchase and of contraband, including a range of substances, human trafficking, and and munitions, to mask the traffic of groups such as Anonymous, or, to shelter the online movements of citizens intolerant or wary of and government monitoring of personal

With the continuous process of plate tectonics on this earth, resulting in rapid-fire ejection, subduction, and crystallization, the cycles proceed at a swift While some landmarks, as Myspace, are pushed downward at least temporarily, remain ground, forming a valley or others are pulled beneath the to dissolve, or, in some cases, and crystallize into underground Such caverns rest in a of suspended animation, sheltered the technological and aesthetic development above ground.

The Internet is a non-profit organization founded in for the preservation of the Internet. The Internet has developed an ongoing digital of the Internet, striving to prevent or obsolete pages from irrevocably into the lower The project’s Wayback Machine[10] is a of digi-geologic history and aesthetic One can step through the web-portal to the pages of, circa and the experience is something akin to back in time, to discovering, a la Verne’s A Journey to the Center of the . subterranean enclaves of flora and thought to be extinct. Once a user can sift through a of archived websites, many and maintained by hobbyists and early-adopters for use, sharing information friends, family, and online groups.

David Elliott, Elliott’s Land of the Squishy: The Lab . courtesy David Elliott.

the range of topics catalogued on 1996 directory of sites is a devoted to artists, both and professionals, working with generated imagery and animations. websites, such as “World Graphics by Jack Andrews,”[11] or Elliott’s Land of the Squishy,”[12] are by standards of web-design crude and even when compared to hobbyist pages hosted on or Tumblr style templates, and feature densely patterned or black backgrounds with aligned text in bright colors. Icons and animated-gif abound, and most personal feature a ticking odometer-style tracking the number of page Andrews and Elliott use their as virtual galleries, showcasing images generated utilizing such as Bryce, Photoshop, and Ray Designer, and they openly electronic correspondence and share the behind the generation of the work.

Andrews, FantasyPeak2.jpg . digital Courtesy Jack Andrews.

of the images showcased by Andrews and depict some variation of computer generated fractal rising out of a fog of vaguely psychedelic light. Andrews’ FantasyPeak2.jpg . depicts a jagged mountain rising out of darkness, illuminated by a blue light. Violet shapes, or simulated lens-flares, into the distance, and white forms radiate a sort of charge. Suspended over the stretching infinitely in every is a grid of blue—a digital arcing over the geologic The grid simultaneously recalls the visualization of the digital landscape of and the constructivist proun paintings of El attempted visualization of some unnamed cross-current space, space in which the digital thrusts itself through the into the physical earth.

In work, it remains difficult to what aspects of a composition the artist’s intent, and what is a product of the tools available. for example, was a software application allowed for easily generated, detailed renders of fractal-based The proliferation of these geologic in the work of early digital such as Andrews and Elliott may be a product of this availability. In his essay on the significance of digital in contemporary art practice, Is There in the Telematic Embrace? . Roy Ascott

“It may not be an exaggeration to say that the “content” of a art will depend in large on the nature of the interface; that is, the of configurations and assemblies of image, and text, the kind of restructuring and of environment that telematic might yield, will be by the freedoms and fluidity available at the

To this end, that driving the generation of these is as integral to the work as the images Andrews, Elliott, and others in the same vein, are, in way, channeling the technology They serve, to some as mediums for the message, occupying a as facilitators, conjuring forth the intrinsically embedded within the This role of medium, or in conjunction with technology, is not to be a lessening of the power of independent however, but as a growth and expansion of the will of humankind as whole.

culture means, in short, we do not think, see, or feel in Creativity is shared, authorship is culture amplifies the individual’s for creative thought and action, for vivid and intense experience, for informed perception, by enabling her to in the production of global vision networked interaction with minds, other sensibilities, sensing and thinking systems the planet—thought circulating in the medium of through a multiplicity of different geographical, social, and personal

Suddenly, this digital moving over and through our world is something greater the sum of its parts: it is the outset of something of a mind, a force of creative and vision in which one individual is consumed and carried forward by the of a collective. One can, according to see, hear, and even across geological boundaries and This digi-geology is a space of a space without latitude or a space, in fact, without without edges, and without hurdles between minds, and ideas.

Even considering collapse of individual authorship, something to note in this of geologic imagery of Andrews’ and images. While their may, in fact, be a case of the or technology exerting its will that of the human hand the tool, a software developer or team of developers designed the Someone, somewhere, imagined the known as Bryce, and released it the digital sphere for the express of generating digi-geological landscapes for in image-generation or animation programs. and the images it produces, points to desire to capture, or even those forms found in the geological world. The landscapes often lean toward the “sublime” of nature: vast and vistas, soaring mountain and jutting cliff faces. It is, in sense, an attempt at fusing the infinite vastness of an uncharted, and digi-geology with that traditionally inspires awe in the physical

If, indeed, that digi-geology is a without edges, borders, and spatio-temporal limitation or partition, it can be as an example of Deleuze and Guattari’s of a “smooth” space, as opposed to a space. Deleuze and Guattari a smooth space as that occupied by the nomad, the wanderer: the one who over a territory not according to an geometry or external system, but who according to qualities inherent in territory itself: currents, seasons, waterways, migratory or patterns. The smooth space is space that defies or the map, the space that has unmapped, or simply mapped the bodies of its occupiers. “The sea is a space par excellence, and yet was the first to the demands of increasingly strict The sea, a smooth space, pre-striation by currents and winds, has striated into a grid and bearings, first designated by readings of star and other movements, and eventually by its complete and gridding through the mechanism of and longitude, this striation all the more complete through the of GPS and satellite imaging.

Andrews’ FantasyPeak2.jpg can be read as the ongoing conflict between and striated space, one imposing its on the other, and the other its will on the in a continual battle of dominance. and Guattari go on to describe in mathematical the diametric of smooth versus space, and linger on mathematical as potential analogues of a smooth As a fractal, “smooth space not have a dimension higher that which moves it or is inscribed in it; in this sense it is a multiplicity, for example, a line fills a plane without to be a line.”[17]

Fractal geometry as the underlying structure of the landscapes using Bryce and other generation software. The program specific fractal algorithms, in with randomizing equations, to naturalistic geologic forms in space. If we point to the Bryce-generated forms of FantasyPeak2.jpg as occupying or Deleuze and Guattari’s smooth we can identify the impending imposition of a space—delineated, externally organized, the hovering neon blue

Elizabeth Grosz describes space, which the Internet and imaging occupies, as being space of the emergence of the new, the the unrealized, which at every loads the presence of the present supplementarity, redoubling the world parallel universes.”[18] While might be said for some of the digi-geography occupied by the Internet, it most directly to those that exhibit qualities of and Guattari’s smooth spaces: areas of the Internet that are generated and user defined, remain unstructured.

If the structure of the and virtual spaces more do in fact exhibit this of mirroring of physical, earthly structure and space, then it to reason that within digital structure exist, smooth and striated space. early Internet, springing in part through the military of ARPANET (striated space, a delineated function and transfer and the countering efforts of the counter-culture Stewart Brand’s Whole Catalogue and Whole Earth Link (smooth space, and flexible, striving for accessibility, and community engagement), even in its exhibited an ongoing tension smooth and striated space.[19]

examined closely, many of the Internet are far from Deleuze and definition of smooth space. users access the Internet a web browser designed by a separate in many cases—Windows Internet Google Chrome, Apple’s and owned by for-profit corporate Many users access and utilize search engines services run by these same entities. In many ways, is a gradual striation of the Internet’s space, in which visitors are unable to, or don’t know how to, their own paths through the and instead adhere to those demarcated by those entities strive to control, channel, and data exchanges on the Internet. fore-mentioned sub-strata of this space—the hidden Tor network—acts as, at a smooth- er space, perhaps with its own sub set of striations and protocols, but a sense of freedom for lateral

However fully certain might wish to demarcate and lay to the digi-geology of the Internet, to fully map or digital space is something of an Despite the attempts at striation—at control and traffic channeling, at the placement and limits of a given of the World Wide Web—it elusive. The Internet is, in fact, a and dynamic thing: a rhizomatic that, despite Lyon’s Project . will never a one-to-one correlation between site and digital site. The is rapidly changing, shifting, its plate tectonics moving at an rate and, moreover, in all directions of space and time. It is as it grows beyond the edges of its map as as it has been mapped. According to

“The computer and the worlds it reveal that the world in we live, the real world, has been a space of virtuality. The is saturated with the spaces of possibility, and the new that we now designate as in order to keep them behind the glassy smoothness of the screen.”[20]

It resists even containment, and, as a growing unto itself, appears to remain locked behind the of a screen. It is an invisible force all us, occupying not only wires but waves. We carry its physical around in our pockets, our purses, to our ears. The virtual even itself in physical space as hologram performers—the resurrection of Shakur at the 2012 Coachella in southern California, Japan’s pop-star sensation, Hatsune take the stage to throngs of fans.[21]

In some sense, we are all each and every one of us. We all live in Edge all of the time, our digi-enhanced of sight and sound and spatio-temporal linking the physical world the digital in a seamless gradient. We in and out of the data stream with amphibious vehicles adapting to the of the moment. When one lifts a out of the soil and finds data light swirling in an ocean of what can one expect to find the data? What can we expect to in the darkness between the numbers? a darkness between all things: an that hangs without between the nodes on the Opte between the mountain and the squares of the between the subatomic vibrating of the world. This is a darkness we can never fully know, fully occupy.

If we keep moving through strata of information, we can’t expect to strike bedrock.

Data data; information begets Underneath the data stream is no no vacuum. The data stream is occupying no distinct form, no depth. It exists according to its own in a fractal repetition repeating infinitely. It is a line and plane, and hyper-cube at once, occurring in all simultaneously. It bends us to its form, and as we as sapiens enter the stream increasingly immersive modes we come to occupy all spaces, all simultaneously.

We are fractalling ourselves.


We the world; we map it onto our bodies.

As we to the corner store, to our friend’s or through the neighborhood to the park, we those routes into the of our feet, into our neurons, and we to know them, intrinsically. We can them in our mind’s eye; we can a map. We wear them on our

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Using machines to traverse the we place an object between the and the body, and that map becomes altered. It ceases to hold a ratio, no longer a tracing. a bicycle, a car, train or all impose a new logic on our body-mapping.

Grosz, “It is the coupling of two disparate those of bodily affects or and those governing the geology of the or territory: art is always the coupling of elements from the cosmological and their integration into the experience and behavior of organisms.”[22] By line of thinking, that space known as the Internet two sets of spaces simultaneously. It is, of something akin to what describes as “art.” It is a circumstance by human minds, a coupling of the of the rhizomatic form with the behavior of the human organism. It has however, developed into a party, a navigable world It is not simply a product of the world, but has to occupy the niche of “world” on its with its own set of pathways that we as are now inscribing on our minds and bodies. We are with the digital route to the mail, to purchase products, to information, to contact our friends and

Grosz continues:

“Art is of the to the extent that art is the consequence, the unpredictable effect, of the coupling of a or territory with a body, and the of qualities, whether sonorous, or tactile, framed through the of a (history of) form.”[23]

This of the digital milieu or digital with the human body, or body of the digital avatar, is to mirror Grosz’ described between the territory of the earth and the body. Grosz positions art as from an excess: in relation to from an excess of cosmological a state of ever-increasing entropy, and wrested into some by which one might read or the world as extricated from an excess of time, an excess of an excess of earth and material. with a doubling of the world as a sphere coupled and yet expanding the earthly geological sphere, we are with a new excess of information, and digital space, mapping into our bodies and into our of thought and art-making.

What is unknown, at this juncture, is this is a process that may indefinitely—with the development of the digi-geology of the and the digital mind or body-surrogate, we see a level mirroring of the processes of the and its relationship to the human body—it to reason that, left to through the rapidly accelerating cycles of the digi-geologic sphere, we may to witness—and in fact may already be unaware—the development of a second mirroring within the digi-sphere. We may to see the development of a digi-geology 2. a second mirroring of these digi-geologic occurring as a sub-network to the digital as we know it, accessible to a digital and leading to a third-level mirroring, ad

Traversing the roads and footpaths of Edge . I know my way around. The route between Hawk’s and Bone Strewn Crest is in the soles of my feet. I could it blindfolded; I can imagine each in my mind’s eye.

Or, rather, my feet, my avatar’s mind’s

I’ve started digging, There’s data everywhere, though everything. I’m working building a network. June 21, 2012). February 16, 2012). June 21, 2012). February 16, 2012). June 21, 2012). June 21, 2012). February 16, 2012).

[8] “About Tor . (accessed February 16, (accessed June 21,, (accessed June 21, (accessed June 21, (accessed February 16,

amiga/ (accessed 16, 2012). (accessed 16, 2012). June 6, 2012).

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