Lisa Jevbratt’s “1:1” and Network Inequality

The “every” (IP) interface.

I would not call Lisa Jevbratt‘s 1:1 electronic literature, but nonetheless cannot resist making it the topic of my post. The screenshot above represents one way of navigating the piece (which definitely constitutes an artwork).What led me to Jevbratt’s interface artwork initially was Stephanie Strickland’s “Quantum Poetics: Six Thoughts” and her description of 1:1‘s “every” interface, depicted above. Strickland names it as a “clickable image map linking to every top level website associated with an IP address,” where colors are “generated by using the second, third and fourth octet [of the IP] to specify RGB numbers” that differentiate the clickable squares. In other words each unique IP has its own color, like so:

The “random” interface, which generates a random web page akin to the yahoo and google functions, except of the colored database.

Three further interfaces allow different ways of navigating – “migration,” which looks like this (the colors represent the 1999 and 2001 databases, rather than IPs, in this case):

One section of the “migration” map.

Where clicking on a blob reveals a range of IPs within an octet’s pattern that you can click through individually:

And often reveal how time has evolved the web (more on this later), where the majority of IPs don’t respond or sometimes return a server error demonstrating your lack of privileges:

You get these a lot… but how, Protocol Gods, do I know what credentials you require?

This repetitive failure (remember the latest database was made in 2002, so the piece is dated) illustrates well the powerful aid of search engines and hyperlinks in the web. Experiencing this work feels like groping for something in an empty darkness – there’s no way to anchor oneself or follow a clear path – you are trying aimlessly to establish a line to another IP, to connect somehow, but often your requests go unanswered and you have to start over.

Perhaps a different interface type would make it easier? Lets try “hierarchical,” which might help as it organizes the IP octets into folders (255, each with 255 within them, and so on) so the web might be explored as if each website were a file on a hard drive:

Nope, still just stabbing madly in the dark.

Let’s turn then to my favorite interface, “excursion,” which starts with an 8-bit-esque box:

Website PacMan?

The interface help reads:

This interface is a visualization of the whole IP space and of the crawlers’ activity in the space. The image on the index page represents all the possible numbers of the first octet of the IP addresses (see the project description page and the hierarchical interface description for explanation of the IP address). The leftmost square on the top represents the number 0 and the bottom rightmost represents the number 255. A gray square indicates that no IP addresses that start with that number have been searched for. A black square indicates that addresses starting with that number have been searched for, but nothing has been found, and green means that at least one IP address starting on the number corresponding to the square has been found. To explore an IP address, starting with a certain number, click on the square corresponding to the number (the number is displayed in the status bar of the browser). The window that opens up has an image whose x and y coordinates represent the two next octets of the IP address. The moire´ like patterns in the visualizations are a direct result of the interlaced nature of the crawlers search activities. Rather than searching one IP locality in detail, the crawlers have been searching at spaced intervals. A click in this window opens up a window representing the last octet of the IP address. This interface provide a visualization of the web vis a vis IP space, an interface to the search itself, and a way for individual surfers to participate in this one of a kind, one to one exploration.

Clicking on a square reveals unique submaps, all Matrix-y and similar in appearance to Strickland’s Vniverse:

IP address stars!

Further each dot is clickable and accesses another octet value which opens a much smaller window with more colored boxes which ultimately lead you mostly to nothing or occasionally server errors or somehow if you eat leprechauns like I do and thus are extremely lucky end up here or some dial up cat blog from 1998 (I wish I ate enough leprechauns to achieve this feat).

Turning back to Strickland so we might say something about 1:1, consider that she identifies how “interface here has become not only the map but the environment… map as time tunnel, map-meaning dependent on date [emphasis mine]” (27). While 1:1 is a profoundly frustrating experience it works. While Galloway stresses in Protocol that many of the sites of net.art are the moments where protocol and control break down, protocol here is working perfectly – you are navigating to legitimate IPs – and it instead is the interface, the action of creating those lines, that is a primary focus of the work, and underscores the “hard-nosed technical view… [of the Internet’s] packet switching, in which chunks of data are fragmented and routed to destination addresses,” where the control system is unconcerned with any qualitative differentiation (The Exploit, 56). 1:1, which Strickland notes implies “that this map has the same size as its referent [the web],” engages the relationship between internet and reader in ways we aren’t accustomed to, presenting a (nearly) complete image of a multinational network through a precise protocol that contrasts the increasingly filtered and data mined stream of information (flowing in many directions) in the form of search engines and hyperlinks we are familiar with – and have learned to navigate “one of our most important public environments” by (Strickland, 27). We’ve grown accustomed to a third party (often an algorithm) deciding what information has meaning to us and presenting it in a clean interface.

Lisa Jevbratt’s work targets how meaning, that qualitative aspect ignored by many Internet protocols, is fundamentally contextual, temporal, and unequal. IP addresses may have existed in 2002 but time (and thus people and context), or access restrictions, have changed them.  I can’t help but think of language, also – how language loses meaning without context and is fundamentally only representational the way an IP address can’t know whether the website it leads to actually exists anymore.

I find 1:1 a strangely compelling way of exploring the fundamentally dynamic and unequal internet space in its own language and through both human and digital memory, and hope one day to find that cat blog. How do you guys see this piece?

Also if you are interested in the preservation of old tech things this site will forever be awesome as long as it exists.

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3 Responses to Lisa Jevbratt’s “1:1” and Network Inequality

  1. epiratequeen says:

    Pieces like this are so interesting to me. Only by utilizing the Internet can something so fascinating and engaging be created without creating any actual content. I wish net.art was a bigger deal today–most of the famous pieces date back to the nineties or early 2000s. With the amount that computer technology has advanced, some truly fascinating art pieces could be created.

    The fact that this piece of art doesn’t really have any content per se reminds me of this quote:

    “[In 2015] Uber, the world’s largest taxi company owns no vehicles, Facebook the world’s most popular media owner creates no content, Alibaba, the most valuable retailer has no inventory and Airbnb the world’s largest accommodation provider owns no real estate.”

    Like

    • mjp99 says:

      It makes me think of what Brad brought up during our outdoor class… asking how we begin to think about or express an ontology of capitalism – particularly late-capitalism and how labor has changed with a networked existence. How it seems power and capital revolves less around objects or products (although they are certainly important and foundational) it is dissemination and advertising – rather, information, and the protocols that regulate it – that exercises the most influence and can be the framework for the most successful enterprises (as you noted with Uber, Facebook, and Alibaba poignantly).

      Perhaps someone with more experience studying contemporary capitalism and business strategies could enlighten us?

      I’m interested in what we seemed to be revolving around today in class – this friction between what I think of as ‘informatic egalitarianism’ or some better articulation of protocol’s blindness to qualitative aspects of information – the meaning, how we read it – and the immanent inequality of networks because of the meaning created between nodes, where certain nodes are clearly ‘more important’ than others or have more value within the network. Language seems to function as one site of protocol where, like in Gass, all of these links are made but their affect depends on the links rather than simply the signifiers, similar to how packet switching operates (and Galloway and Thacker are exploring this explicitly in the section we’re reading for Thursday, but I haven’t finished it but I’m sure we’ll talk about it more next class). Gass seems concerned with qualitative aspects, with a poetic mobilization of language, where google is largely quantitative.

      I’m intrigued, however, by how “1:1” can be poetic, as Strickland notes at the very beginning of her reading of the artwork – it seems so systematic, rather than poetic. She has a very complex reading of it relating somehow to Bush and memory (specifically machine and human memory working alongside one another) but I haven’t thought about this enough.

      Pointing to the lack of content, as you do, is interesting also when we remember McLuhan – perhaps the web has radically reconfigured how media function, how, instead of containing previous media, network protocol instead regulates that information and the links between content rather than contain it or reflect it.

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      • epiratequeen says:

        I think McLuhan is absolutely relevant here–this work utilizes its medium specificity in a way that no other work I’ve seen has done. It’s particularly interesting to me because it goes beyond using words–we already have a concept of what “404 error” means, but I would never expect to see it used in literature.

        In that light, I actually have no problem seeing 1:1 as poetic. This work is using computer protocols as language, to replace language even, and as such, allows for new definitions of words like “poetry.” I’ll admit I haven’t read Strickland’s interpretation, so I’m sure it’s all up for debate.

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