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  • Writer's pictureFırat Yılmaz

Data Cravings: [web meta/bolisms and data digestion]

Updated: Mar 30


 



Research poster with the video still image (digitally manipulated) from Stelarc’s Stomach Sculpture - Hollow Body / Hollow Space, 1993 (Poster design: Fırat Yusuf Yılmaz)

Data Cravings is an ongoing research that operates in parallel with accompanying artistic research that focuses on data digestion and web meta/bolisms in a way that blurs the contrast between the physical nature of eating and digital consumption. In the scope of the research, shared stomachs between human-machine-other living species and internet-based

mutual feeding practices are examined. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx The research emphasizes 'seeding' in a broader sense which represents the mutual data-sharing economy of internet culture, browser-based agricultural simulation games, symbolic web food, data appetite and the net as a collective feeding mechanism. Trying to imagine a new nutritional practice that might emerge on the digital digestive tracts and conductive pores of technological objects, the research is an attempt to develop mutual stomachs, new types of digestions, and shared metabolisms on the interspecies net.



Farming robots controlled by AI are slowly replacing older agricultural systems which means that our primal activity on this planet is becoming more and more autonomous each day. The interrelation between living species and non-living things before digestion has already started to amalgamate as our general metabolismic presence is already becoming less and less organic. For example, have you ever fed a Tamagotchi? Formulated as a techno-feeding practice, Tamagotchis were the cutest case of Pavlov’s dog situation at first glance, just reversed in a way that we were the ones being conditioned, or it looked like so. Feeding a techno entity and being responsible for its survival was actually a cooperative effort from both sides from the very beginning as the device was reactive, yet not a proactive form of it. Now, just as farming robots are feeding us proactively using their data-driven networks, we are also feeding them systematically on a daily basis, mainly with sunlight as most of the farming robots are operated via solar-powered systems. Consumption goes both ways between several separate entities now as consuming and getting consumed is slowly turning into different phases of being in a metabolismic system. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


Farmville, a farming simulator game, showed us our codependency parameters surrounding food, other stomachs, and digital resource consumption in a digital realm. Grinding every day to expand your farmland just to feed pixel villagers and other players’ digital land, taking more digital space meant consuming and demanding more psychical energy. As our digital scapes kept getting bigger pixel by pixel, the discussion around food and psychically sourced digital resources became more pivotal meaning that electricity was now directly related to digital hunger. When it comes to getting fed or satisfying our hunger on the web, the websites’ landing pages come to our rescue with their generously offered ‘cookies’. If you don’t mind the fact that they are trying to ‘harvest’ our personal information and monetize our private data, happily accepting their cookies is a new form of digital greeting ceremony. Third-person apps are giving us symbolic web food and invalidate our privacy in return. Since no metabolismic system runs on zero energy, paying a price for the service is no big surprise though. Also, for those who want to feed rather than get fed, Freerice is an app that donates 10 rice to WFP for every correct answer as users play the English learning game on their website. Globally feeding another anonymous party via /[first world country] wide web/ is a one-way generous donation to charity-based models of sharing food online, I guess. Tables for mutual benefit and democratic distribution that are operated on the web also exist as well, as exchanging data globally and ‘seeding’ another receiver has been possible through Torrent since 2005. Seeding the net metaphorically and sourcing data to unknown receivers with the help of an intermediary system granted the term seeding to the digital lexicon. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Frutiger Aero Aesthetic

There has also been an aesthetic shift in how we perceive metabolismic entities, not only on

the linguistic side but also in the visual lexicon. Web-born aesthetics are also getting more

organic, vivid and liquid. Frutiger Aero is an early example from Web 2.0 and is characterized by its use of bubbles, lens flare, abstract technology, auras, bright colors, marine organisms, and glossy surfaces. In Frutiger Aero, we directly see electrical devices survive marine ecosystems in harmony as If such a thing was possible during Web 2.0. This contradicting coexistence is most likely realized through our tendency to humanize the systems that we have a very small idea about how their inner workings operate. We can analyze this aesthetic as an optimistic thinking of the future with devices around us but another important thing here is to observe how electrical systems subconsciously and slowly morph into to mimic how our bodies operate.

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Liquid-cooled Open System Computers

Personal devices are rapidly evolving more to resemble transparent metabolismic systems

for us to turn our gaze as they keep running our commands. Flexible keyboards and liquid-cooled open system personal computer cases let us observe how data flows, or so we are eager to act like it. Should transparent systems be labeled as progressive biomimicry, liquid mechanics, or Freudian hybridizations? Labels aside, there were some artists whose work also heavily revolved around the extracted data of our metabolismic existence and were researching the inner workings of things we consume (or in the end, consume us). xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


Stelarc, Stomach Sculpture - Hollow Body / Hollow Space, 1993

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Stomach Sculpture is a performance object/procedural equipment swallowed by the artist Stelarc that is affixed with an endoscopic xxcamera to transfer the video feed of his digestion system as a xperformance (and also as a procedure). Stelarc's work mainly xxxxxxxfocuses on expanding the human body's skill set through technology and is followed by various medical operations undertaken by him. Stomach Sculpture is known as an early example to focus on topics such as transhumanism and artificial evolution initiated through technical advancements, and paves the way for robotic parts-human collaborations. The work examines how the ‘two’ are subjected to an evolutionary process that is getting increasingly both-sided, viewed through the lens of co-evolvement. The artist also proposes himself ‘as an art object’ by adding the performance equipment (or his partner) to his own body, positioning it inside his internal tract. Stelarc collects the data of a metabolistic system and quantifies an integral organic process by live streaming and recording his digestion. Digitizing an organism’s intake and problematizing our consumption is also explored in the work of another artist, Jiaboa Li. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


Jiaboa Li, TransVision Project, Commoditized Vision, 2012

In TransVision, designer, lecturer, and artist Jiaboa Li explores the mediation between humans, technological tools, and the environment we perceive. Through the three headgears she created for the TransVision project, the artist focuses on alienating the ways we interpret, operate, and understand the visual world intervened by digital media. According to the artist, our field of vision has been filled with so much information that our perception has become a controllable resource. Commodified Vision headgear calculates and archives how much we would have collected at the end of the day if we were monetizing our data sold

and from the ads we encountered during our online time on the web. Assuming the scenario in which we make money by looking at ads through design, the artist aims to visualize how withdrawing our interests and vision from the ownership of others would look like. Commodified Vision also questions how our perception has become a part of the value chain in the spectacle.

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       xxx                                                  Calculating digital consumption and formulating it as a cold numeric value demystifies our intrinsic perceptive nature on the web all the while proposing an ethical counter. Maybe we can even name the periodic tempo of our digestion rate as B(y)ites per second, as we’re the enthusiastic The Consoomer on the digital digestive tracts operating as a gut within file pathways. Curating our FEED, spaghetti cables are ever-growing as we’re craving updates to renew our pixels/cells through plastic pores. If consumption has already become a part (and also as an extension) of digital networks, is cooking on the net also possible?        xxx                                                 

Mathieu st. Pierre, Melting Ice Cream, 2012

       xxx                                                             Glitch artist Mathieu St. Pierre’s Melting Ice Cream is a basic example of how pixels can be treated as ingredients in a digital cooking process. The artist bends and glitches pixels within the screen using the data moshing method to simulate the melting process of an ice cream, symbolically, as the final output reminds us of a visual topography of a melting material. The final image looks like a hot mosh serving on the digital menu. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx To increase our appetite a bit more, in addition to the [Data Cravings] research content, fermentation products and cooking materials were speculatively techno-fermented and digitally archived using predictive AI technologies under the name of Predictive Fermentations.

Predictive Fermentations

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Predictive Fermentations is the final stage of [Data Cravings] research and is an artificial decay surface study, speculated from real-world fermentation texture. Methodologically, predictive AI was used to generate 2.5D textural maps and relief-like 3D surfaces from photographs or synchronously scanned surfaces of the selected food. Those fermentation results were treated as a separate digital entity as it was ‘over-fermented and cooked’ digitally. As If I were preparing food, texture samples were ‘cooked’ both manually and automatically as the fermentation process’ fictional duration kept getting longer (mostly more than 1.000 years per try). Fermentation efforts took the form of visual artistic research as I was also adding another visual layer of discussion to the program by implementing the idea

of ‘breeding’ raw data of the physical food. Speculative cooking via digital tools for mutual feeding practices between machines and living things has also been the study subject of the artist Eduardo Kac. Since the 1990s, experimental poet, artist, and software developer Eduardo Kac has been bringing together the internet and the biological ecosystems, designing hybrid interfaces and experiences that function between humans, plants, and machines. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


Teleporting an Unknown State, Eduardo Kac, Biotelematic Installation, 1994/6

In his work titled Teleporting an Unknown State, four screens are placed around a potted plant seed in the center of the exhibition space. The screens in the room take the light value of the image transmitted from the camera and transfer it to the environment the plant is in, maintaining the same ratio. Through the internet, anyone can connect to the screens and take turns sharing the daylight of their surroundings with the plant to help with its photosynthesis process in order to survive. Eduardo Kac calls this practice ‘'bio-telemation for tele-beings’' [2]. The potential for telematic participation gives people the chance to have a plant that they can grow collectively through the use of the internet. Photons from distant

countries and cities are 'beamed' into the gallery, exposing the plant to different

environmental lights - normally inaccessible from its biological environment. The artist proposes the idea of the internet as a collective caring system that supports life and exemplifies the first experiments of the interspecies internet.

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To conclude (or digest), an early version of an interspecies net is probably being built just as we speak. The potential of a multi-species web where all organisms are connected and can be a central part of the meta/bolism is getting closer but we should be aware of the ethical dilemmas and probability of abuse here. Recoding the internet as a system of care comes with its own problems. Before getting engulfed by a planetary web-based meta/bolism, let’s go beyond tokenizing metabolisms as a sterile and neutral metaphor for every possible exchange. Trying to imagine a new nutritional practice and relevant types of ‘phygital’ digestions comes with the understanding that the systems operate with what we feed into it,

either beneficial and ethical or the opposite. We should accept that fact that we all consume, one resource or another. The desire and potential for exploitation are always there. The main objective of the artistic research part of [Data Cravings] was to analyze data digestion and build tools for chewing the given data and cooking pixels to see If it’s possible to imagine how a dinner table would look like between humans, data, and other living species.     xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Do we crave data or the data crave us?



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