"Data is geology"

Artifacts of the Presence Era is a project form 2003 by Fernanda Viégas, Ethan Perry and Ethan Howe that proposed to visualize accumulated layers of data in an intriguing way. A camera and a microphone captured the myriad of images and sounds produced during an exhibition in the ICA gallery. The system allowed to visualize them "as a growing, organic landscape that serves as a historical record".

"Like its natural counterpart, this process reveals long-term patterns (the rhythm of night and day, periods of great activity or empty silence), while retaining occasionally serendipitous, but often mundane, samples of the passage of life. The project visualized the accumulating layers of data and allowed visitors to navigate the captured images and ambient sounds, peeking back into the history of the gallery. (...) In trying to convey a sense of historical buildup over time, it made sense to 15 look at natural examples of accretion for inspiration. The geological layers in sedimentary rocks and their function as record keepers provided us with such an example”"

Why do I blog this? I am more interested in the metaphor employed here than in the project itself. As Dan Saffer described it in his thesis, DATA IS GEOLOGY. Moving from through the system engage participants in the "excavation" of the traces left by others in the physical space. Being interested in spatial and activity traces and their role in social navigation, I quite like the metaphor. Some food for thoughts regarding chronotopic visualizations.