Radical media, politics and culture.

Norwayweb and Data Bodies

I came across the Net Artwork Norwayweb whilst receiving my usual mass of e-mails. Even though I usually use filters, far too much spam still gets through. So, like so many other's around the world, I have the arduous process of picking out what is deemed worth keeping. Lost in despair, numerous individuals choose to delete everything rather than cyphering through an ever expansive junk mail infestation. In 2004 yahoo found in their research "that the average British PC has nine 'sick days' per year, two more than the average for workers. Six of these are wasted battling with spam and three more days are lost due to viruses. Nearly half of British computer users find dealing with junk e-mails more stressful than traffic jams..."[1]

As we all adapt and mutate in response to a more technologically determined world, we become something else. New generations join the mass shift to be digitally dependent via games, the Internet and other post-analogue activities. As we use the Internet or fill in a form to the tax office our information is stored digitally somewhere, yet many do not think how safe the submitted information really is. In the UK, "The government was forced to admit the most fundamental breach of faith between the state and citizen yesterday when it disclosed that the personal records of 25 million individuals, including their dates of birth, addresses, bank accounts and national insurance numbers had been lost in the post, opening up the threat of mass identity fraud and theft from personal bank accounts. MPs gasped when the chancellor, Alistair Darling, told the Commons that discs containing personal details from 7.25 million families claiming child benefit had been lost. They went missing in the internal post after a junior official at HM Revenue & Customs in Washington, Tyne and Wear, breached all government security rules by sending them by courier to the National Audit Office in London.." [2]

As I went through the (programmed) mannerism of switching between looking at e-mails on my Thunderbird client and clicking back to the Firefox browser to view how Norwayweb was doing; and visiting Facebook to see the various messages that had been left there for me by those who I wish to know and those who I do not wish to know. At first, when visiting the project it all seems simplistic in layout and then one begins to feel the deeper workings behind the page, the cogs and wheels digitally chugging away. The profundity of it all brings about a tip of the ice burg metaphor to mind. A frozen moment, like when everyone sees what is at the end of every fork. As William Burroughs' discovered in the writing of Naked Lunch. To me, the fork is a simple trigger, example of a realisation that something big is happening and what one sees in front of them may be micro but also intrinsically connected to a macro, set of happenings and situations that are overwhelming.

Bjorn Magnhildoen is known for his various net art works, incororating databases and networks. He's the author of more than fourty books, many of them collaborative and generative works, and has also published books concerned with net art and net writing. Recent projects deal with net art books, writing machines and software implemented on the net, live or performative writing and programming, codework, hypertext, and e-poetry.

Norwayweb was originally part of a series called "Protocol Performance" realised in 2007 with the support of the Norwegian Cultural Council, section for art and new technology. This work uses specific data collected from a source or sources originating from the national system's database. The information is scraped from about 4 million Norwegian tax payer's databases. As soon as you visit the web page, you automatically trigger off the action of collecting the data. On the left side of the interface figures cascade down the page before your very eyes, which gradually evolves into what Magnhildoen calls a carpet. The term carpet is a reference to the textile based craft of weaving.

More of the review by Marc Garrett at Furtherfield: http://www.furtherfield.org/displayreview.php?review_id=295