Community of People with No Time

Community of People with No Time

Victoria Vesna

“Collaboration shifts”: Victoria Vesna investigates the digital/physical limn, the compression of spacetime, and the condition of tensegrity in projects such as n0time and Datamining Bodies.


Although communication networks offer the possibility of a distributed community that can collaborate and exchange vital information, there is little time for these collaborations and exchanges to occur. Ironically, the same technology that makes distributed community a possibility and promised to save us time also prevents us from actually having time to build community. But once one accepts the state of distributed presence, inevitably this means acceptance of a group consciousness, which itself shifts our perception of time and even productivity. This essay uses a large collaborative networked art work n0time as an example of how the creative process shifts when working on the networks.

If the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries are the age of clocks, and the later eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries constitute the age of steam engines, the present time is the age of communication and control. (Wiener 1948)

Three qualities are necessary for work on the networks: a need to connect, a willingness to collaborate, and the ability to embrace the fact that the work may change form and be re-appropriated in the process. In other words, this type of work requires letting go of the idea of “control” we inherited from cybernetics and the industrial approach to computing. As we move into the age of bioinformatics, these systems are clearly not working for the advancement of social consciousness or collective intelligence. The Internet provides us with a space to address some of these issues, but in order to use this environment effectively, the meaning of “networking” has to be extended beyond the physical computer communication infrastructure. But how does this impact the context that the artist usually works in; i.e., exhibiting the work in cultural institutions, working with the organizers and curators, and most importantly, in relation to the audience?

Although museums and most galleries are not designed to exhibit networked physical installation with all its complexity, and some may even say that they are outmoded as cultural centers, I believe that it is important for these very reasons to show the work in these spaces. Traditionally, cultural institutions were designed as social places where people met, viewed art and discussed historical and philosophical issues. This is not a bad tradition to continue, but it certainly warrants some major shifts, and by extending out into the Net, this is bound to happen.

Social networking, on- or off-line, is directly connected to our relationship to time. The project n0time is conceived to raise questions about our perception of time and identity as we extend our personal networks through technology. It is designed to address problems most specific to the Western human condition that seems to be entering a crisis because of its particular stress on productivity and efficiency in structuring time. For instance, the year 2000, anticipated with great fear in the West, was year 6236 according to the first Egyptian calendar; 5119 according to the current Mayan Great Cycle; 2753 according to the old Roman calendar; 2749 according to the ancient Babylonian calendar; 2544 according to the Buddhist calendar; 1997 according to Christ’s actual birth (ca. 4 BC); 1716 according to the Coptic calendar; 1378 according to the Persian calendar; 208 according to the French Revolutionary calendar; and the Year of the Dragon according to the Chinese zodiac.

About Time

“Time Rules Life,” the motto of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, is a statement borne out in formal time units that make up our calendar, as well as in the way everyday events in our lives have become organized and packaged. With the expanded influence the Net affords us, our time is becoming increasingly compressed and scarce, thus having a direct effect on how an audience/artist relationship evolves, particularly for artists working online.

As we approached the year 2000, The End of the World as We Know It (TEOWAWKI) was pronounced on the Net. Large discussions were sparked by a small programming glitch. No one imagined that the convention for marking the passage of time used in the 1950s would still be used when 1999 rolled over to 2000. 1999 marked a year of collective anxiety, when people asked: will the phones stop ringing and planes stop flying and money markets start crashing at 12:01, January 1, 2000? Countries mobilized to prevent chaos, shelves in bookstores were dedicated to ever-increasing publications on the subject, legal firms geared up for a profitable year involving the bug. Numerous newsgroups devoted to the subject formed, posting the alarming news that the FAA was hopelessly behind schedule in patching air-traffic control systems; economists predicted recessions, and a respected author of computer software books, Ed Yardeni, announced the possible collapse of the U.S. government (Borland 1998).

The millennium bug paranoia was a bit different from the many millennial movements that saw it as yet another sign of the times - it was a tangible problem hardwired into the very fabric of our society (Poulsen 1988, 168). Yet in its fatalistic premise it certainly overlapped with the religious movements, which ironically may be what raised the consciousness of connectivity and the complexity of the global networks we are all part of. It was disappointing to find that most discussion on the subject largely revolved around bug fixes, remedies, and reports, rather than exploring the meaning of that collective fear. This moment that threatened to create havoc by disconnecting parts of the system made many acutely aware of our interdependency on the networks.

Finance systems and the global corporate structures are the most tangibly related to computing networks, and they were particularly worried because of their inherently shaky foundations. It is well known that much of the market’s oscillations are based on purely psychological aspects - there are many instances where the market is thrown off-balance in one direction or other by rumors, not fact. Although the fatalistic visions of the millennial bug did not come true, it is quite possible that a collective realization and the resulting fear of being disconnected could ever so slightly have shifted our collective perception of time and networks. Perhaps because so many predictions now seem silly, the discussion around this phenomena has been muted. It is, after all, embarrassing when one considers the stories, rumors and the large amount of resources allocated to “fix” this problem in the West.

To me, it remained an inspiring moment, particularly when conceptualizing a piece that deals with social networks and time. In fact, the core of n0time is rooted in this moment in time. How does one approach developing a work that prompts questions of our relation to time in connection to technology and points to how fragile the system is? How does one visualize the fact that one fearful thought, one rumor, one meme, A meme is an idea that is passed on from one human generation to another. It is the cultural equivalent of a gene, the basic element of biological inheritance. The term was coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins speculates that human beings have an adaptive mechanism that other species don’t have. In addition to genetic inheritance with its possibilities and limitations, humans, says Dawkins, can pass their ideas from one generation to the next. Examples of memes might include the idea of God; the importance of the individual as opposed to group importance; the belief that the environment can to some extent be controlled; or that technologies can create an electronically interconnected world community. Today, the word is sometimes applied ironically to ideas deemed to be of passing value. Dawkins himself described such short-lived ideas as memes that would have a short life in the meme pool. can spark off a ripple of change in our consciousness?

Physicists Per Bak and Kan Chen, of the Santa Fe Institute, wrote a decade ago that systems as large and as complicated as the earth’s crust, the stock market, and the ecosystem are not only impacted by the force of a mighty blow but also by a drop of a pin (Bak and Chan 1991, 46). Large interactive systems perpetually organize themselves to a critical state in which a minor event starts a chain reaction that can lead to a catastrophe. Along with their colleague Chao Tang, they proposed a theory of self-organized criticality: many composite systems naturally evolve to a critical state in which a minor event starts a chain reaction that can affect a number of elements in the system. Chain reactions are a integral part of a dynamic system. As Buckminster Fuller (1986) proposed with “synergetics” decades before, their approach is holistic - global features of the system cannot be understood by analyzing the parts separately. Y2K, then, was a symptom of such a pin.

Art Time

Mechanical reproduction permitted art to leave the museum, and music to leave the concert hall. Printing, photography, and audio recording made the objects of culture available to anyone interested. In the process, the value and mystery surrounding the original work of art - what Walter Benjamin called its “aura” - was diluted in a sea of similar images. Equally, as the communication networks expand our field of influence much wider than we can handle alone, the aura has by necessity to expand to a group of people rather than a single individual. Shifting from industrial to digital/Internet time requires a shift in our consciousness.

Art, traditionally a resort of meditative stillness, became preoccupied with motion early in the twentieth century, and we are inheriting a world that is trying to catch up to the computing speed. In 1912, Marcel Duchamp incited a scandal with his Nude Descending a Staircase; Edward Mybridge used the camera to analyze the mysteries of locomotion; cinema speed accelerated; and even architecture is not conceived of as fixed. Through the twentieth century, war, as Paul Virilio (1984) argues, has served as a “speed factory.” Einstein explained that the inertia of matter increases with acceleration. Therefore the faster we go, the more damage we do to others and ourselves. Perhaps the most interesting and ambitious project that addresses the issue of chasing time is “The Clock of the Long Now.” Conceived by Danny Hillis, developer of the “massive parallel” architecture of the current generation of supercomputers, the clock was designed to respond to the computer industry’s love affair with speed. The clock ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the cuckoo comes out once every millennium. It is meant to inspire people to think long term, to embody “deep time.” The clock project became the Clock/Library - a library of deep future, for the deep future, storing extremely long-term scientific studies, or accumulating a Responsibility Record of policy decisions with long-term consequences. In addition to the physical clock, this idea as a cultural tool is planned to be distributed via the Net, in publications and distributed services.

Internet Time

Whether communication is by telephone hook-up or by wireless radio, what you and I transmit is only weightless metaphysical information. Metaphysical, information appreciative, you and I are not the telephones nor the wire or wireless means of the metaphysical information transmitting. (Fuller 1975, 326.05)

Computer networks demand efficiency and result in fragmentation and what Innis coined as obsession with present-mindedness (Innis 1951, 87) and what Jeremy Rifkin (1987) calls the new nanosecond culture. As we expand our fields of communication and influence through the Net, so we compress the time we have. In The Condition of Postmodernity, social geographer and theorist David Harvey refers frequently to time-space compression: processes that so revolutionize the objective qualities of space and time that we are forced to alter, sometimes in quite radical ways, how we represent the world to ourselves. Harvey finds such compression central to understanding the now commonplace concepts of the world as a global village (Harvey 1989, 240).

Steven Jones argues that: “A particular interest of the internet is its bias towards time, and not space; though the most popular definition of it is cyberspace” (Jones 1997, 12). He believes that the Internet does in its way have a bias towards space too, but a laissez-faire bias, not one that structures space, so much as one that entirely obliterates it as a sense-able construct and so renders it absurd. But, if we are to gain an understanding of how networked environments may best be worked with, it is necessary to consider time as not separate from the information space we inhabit with our attention. Cyberspace is seen as a place that is inherently artificial, while time-space is not perceived of as fictitious or imaginary. In fact both are artificial constructs and one cannot exist without other. Information demands time, relationships demand time. If appreciation of art is connected to the premise of helping the audiences transcend the clock time and enter into a non-production-oriented time, the question then is: who has the luxury of such time?

Biological Time

“Life,” materialized as information and signified by the gene, displaces “Nature,” preeminently embodied and signified by the old-fashioned organisms. From the point of view of the Gene, a self-replicating auto-generator, “the whole is not the sum of its parts, [but] the parts summarize the whole.” (Haraway 1998, 183)

In 1944, Erwin Schrödinger, an Austrian physicist who developed the understanding of wave mechanics and received a Nobel prize as a result, wrote a short book entitled What is Life? (1992), in which he advanced a hypothesis about the molecular structure of genes. This book stimulated biologists to think about genetics in novel ways and opened a new frontier of science - molecular biology. This new field unraveled the genetic code and ushered us into an age when we began perceiving our own physical architecture as “information.” That same year, George R. Stibitz of the Bell Telephone laboratories produced the very first general purpose, relay-operated digital computer. We are now at the threshold of entering an age of biologically driven computers and can only anticipate that this will entail an enormous paradigm shift from industrial-based digital mechanics to ubiquitous computing that could become true extensions of our bodies.

Biologists such as Francesco Varela (1995) and Lynn Margulis (2000) are questioning what relationships our own bodily architecture and our societal organizations have to these underlying biological principles. An entire field of consciousness studies is questioning what we know now about neurons in our brain and their relationship to consciousness. The consideration of silicon chips linked into high-bandwidth channels as the neurons of our culture, looking to how networks have naturally evolved, and comparing this to any network has two ingredients: nodes and connections. How these are designed and what the implications are is a very important question for information architects to ask themselves.

Gene mapping, according to Donna Haraway (1998), is a particular kind of spatialization, she calls “corporealization,” which she defines as “the interactions of humans and non-humans in the distributed, heterogeneous work processes of technoscience…. The work processes result in specific material-semiotic bodies - or natural-technical objects of knowledge and practice - such as cells, genes, organisms, viruses and ecosystems” (Haraway 1998, 186). Information topographies are emerging: in the biological sciences, mapping the human body or the genome, and in the computer sciences mapping the information activities on the networks.

In January 1998, Donald E. Ingber published an article in Scientific American in which he makes the extraordinary claim that he has recognized a universal set of building principles that guide the design of organic structures, from simple carbon compounds to complex cells and tissues. This article proved to be a major inspiration for n0time and reaffirmed my belief that the architectural principles of which Fuller was a proponent could be of significant importance when considering building information architectures. In his article Ingber states that “identifying and describing the molecular puzzle pieces will do little if we do not understand the rules of their assembly” (Ingber 1998, 30). For two decades he discovered and explored the fundamental aspects of self-assembly. For example, in the human body, large molecules self-assemble into cellular components known as organelles, which self-assemble into cells, which self-assemble into tissues. Ingber discovered that an astoundingly wide variety of natural systems including carbon atoms, water molecules, proteins, viruses, cells, tissues, humans, and other living creatures are constructed by a common form of architecture known as tensegrity (figure 18.1).

18.1. A tensegrity structure.

Tensegrity takes us back to Black Mountain College in 1948, where Buckminster Fuller taught and worked with Kenneth Snelson, now an internationally renowned sculptor, then a young student who came under his spell along with John Cage and many others. Deeply inspired by Fuller, Snelson came up with a prototype employing discontinuous compression that Fuller later coined “tensegrity.” Tensegrity (Tensional Integrity) was at the heart of Fuller’s universe. After some time passed, Fuller ceased to credit Snelson for the prototype, causing a deep rift between the two for decades.

Donald Ingber writes: “…in the complex tensegrity structure inside every one of us, bones are the compression struts, and muscles, tendons, and ligaments are the tension-bearing members. At the other end of the scale, proteins and other key molecules in the body also stabilize themselves through the principles of tensegrity” (Ingber 1998, 32). Using a simple tensegrity model of a cell built with dowels and elastic cords, he shows how tensegrity structures mimic the known behavior of living cells. A tensegrity structure, like that of a living cell, flattens itself and its nucleus when it attaches itself to a rigid surface and retracts into a more spherical shape on a flexible substrate. Understanding the mechanics of cellular structures could lead to new approaches to cancer therapy and tissue repair and perhaps even to the creation of artificial tissue replacements (Ingber 1998, 30-39).

Ingber talks about Fuller in his article and about the molecule that was named after him, and indeed has been well-acquainted with the work of Snelson as well as Fuller. In 1983, he wrote a letter to Fuller in which he stated,

The beauty of life is once again that of geometry with spatial constraints as the only unifying principle. It is of interest to note that, as presented in the accompanying paper, cancer may be then viewed as the opposite of life resulting from a breakdown of this geometric hierarchy of synergetic arrangements. (Edmonson, 257)

In 1962 when chemist Sir Aaron Klug observed geodesic structuring of viruses and wrote to Fuller telling him of his discovery, Fuller wrote back immediately with the formula for the number of nodes on a shell (10f + 2, varying according to frequency) as confirmation of Klug’s hypothesis, and Klug answered that the values were consistent with the virus research (Edmonson 1987, 239). It is important to note that geodesic domes were utilized worldwide fifteen years before electronmicroscopy enabled detection of virus capsids. In 1982, Klug won a Nobel prize for his “structural elucidation of important nucleic acid-protein complexes,” and has been described as a “biological map maker,” a Magellan “charting the infinitely complex structures of the body’s largest molecules” (Associated Press 1982).

Whereas cells were regarded as the basic building blocks of living organisms during the nineteenth century, the attention shifted from cells to molecules toward the middle of the twentieth century, when geneticists began to explore the molecular structure of the gene. Biologists were discovering that the characteristics of all living organisms - from bacteria to humans - were encoded in their chromosomes in the same chemical substance and using the same code script. After two decades of research, biologists have unraveled the precise details of this code. But while they may know the precise structure of a few genes, they know very little of the ways these genes communicate and cooperate in the development of an organism. Similarly, computer scientists may be well-versed in networked technologies but have no clue as to how and why the Internet exploded as it did - naturally, spontaneously.

During the 1950s and 1960s, strategic thinking using “systems analysis” emerged, pioneered by the RAND Corporation, a military research and development institution. This was happening at the same time that the greatest discovery in biology occurred - the physical structure of DNA. Watson and Crick explicitly described DNA in computer terms as the genetic “code,” comparing the egg cell to a computer tape. This school of thought is perpetuated in even more extreme terms by proponents of Artificial Life such as Chris Langton, who speaks of separating the “informational content” of life from its “material substrate.” As Richard Coyne notes: “Information is thought to be the essence of life, as in the DNA code. To record and break the code is to have mastery over life” (Coyne 1995, 80).

The most common organizational pattern identified in all systems is networking. All living systems are arranged in a network fashion. Since the 1920s, when ecologists began studying food chains, recognition of networks became essential to many scholars, in different forms. Cyberneticists in particular tried to understand the brain as a neural network and to analyze its patterns. The structure of the brain is enormously complex, containing about 10 billion nerve cells (neurons), which are interlinked in a vast network through 1,000 billion junctions (synapses). The whole brain can be divided into subnetworks that communicate with each other in a network fashion. All this results in intricate patterns of intertwined webs, networks nesting within larger networks (Varela 1995, 94).

There have been a growing number of researchers who are working on visualizing the network geographies, mapping data use. As the networks continue to expand with unbelievable speed, systems administrators increasingly look more to visual representation of data to give them a quick overview of the status. Martin Dodge at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, at University College, London, has put together an impressive array of various research efforts to visualize the Net. Network topology maps typically show things such as traffic information flow; however, more and more scholars are recognizing the value of visualizing network topologies for analyzing social, demographic, and political information flow. In my mind, this is the beginning of the art and science of visualizing and analyzing the patterns of communication networks. This is the beginning of mapping our online societies and viewing ourselves as a particular organism, and here we have rich territory for artists working on the networks.

With the advent of Internet 2 and ubiquitous computing, we are bound to see networked spaces move into three-dimensional topographies. Scientific discoveries are influencing the way we think about information and moving beyond digital computing into the biological realm. The question that arises then is: how do we visualize social networks that do not disembody information for a community of people with no time?

Collaboration Time

Thence evolved a mathematics based on the proportion of reciprocal forces, complements, and functions of a mobile, non-static TIME-world. Thus the scientist-philosopher-artist, by the teleological mechanism of mathematics which contains in its infinite ramifications all the secrets personally contacted by the Yogi, made possible continuity of the expression of the truth beyond “the great wall” of the body and of personal death. (Fuller 1986, 105)

Just as relationships are shifting due to networks, so too is the creative process for those working on the Net, and the meaning of collaboration changes drastically. The word “collaboration” assumes a very different meaning when there is a lack of time and too much information. Collaboration happens in many ways, and unfortunately for those who would like a clearly organized world, there is no one straight formula. As projects get more elaborate, the need to work with others is simply a necessity, and with the Internet, we have the option of collaborating with people whom we never even meet, and consciously plan projects in which the audience become an integral part of the piece and even play an important role in its development. This, together with the fact that new generations who grew up with games and interactivity are expecting a different type of interaction, has great implications in the art world and in the academic environment at large that has traditionally nurtured the idea of an “individual.”

I came to the conclusion that if tensegrity structures work in physical architectures (as in Buckminster Fuller’s domes and Kenneth Snelson’s sculptures), and are the basis of cellular and molecular architectures, the same principles should be applied to networked information spaces. I started imagining how these spaces could look and function, and was inspired to start experimenting with the visualization of social networks. However, I was having enormous difficulty finding someone who could both program and understand this type of system until I ran across Gerald de Jong, a programmer working in Holland, while I was doing research on the web. De Jong (1996) had developed a system called “Struck,” which later morphed into “Fluidiom” (fluid idiom), and was actively engaged in programming dynamic tensegrity structures. In this system, synergetic geometry or “elastic interval geometries,” as de Jong calls them, are used to model arbitrary database information for visualization and decision-making purposes, as well as for the creation of effective and aesthetic presentation graphics and web applications. The Fluidiom Project’s inspiration was directly linked with Buckminster Fuller’s comprehensive scientific philosophy, Synergistics. According to Fuller:

Synergistics shows how we may measure our experiences geometrically and topologically and how we may employ geometry and topology to coordinate all information regarding our experiences, both metaphysical and physical. Information can be either conceptually metaphysical or quantitatively special case physical experiencing, or it can be both. The quantized physical case is entropic, while the metaphysical generalized conceptioning induced by the generalized content of the information is syntropic. The resulting mind-appreciated syntropy evolves to anticipatorily terminate the entropically accelerated disorder.

The Fluidiom Project was exactly what I was looking for, and in February 2000, I contacted de Jong via e-mail, introducing my research and concept. He immediately understood the idea of creating a networked human information architecture, using “energetic geometries,” and before long we were collaborating on Datamining Bodies.

18.2. From one body to another.

The following month, Gerald came to Los Angeles and we spent a week working together on how my ideas could connect to the tensegrity structures he had been developing using the Java programming language. As it turned out, he had very similar ideas and it was almost strange to both of us how we came to the same place from very different angles. We also knew that both of us were going to gain something from working together and from that point on, we collaborated remotely and did not meet again until the opening of the exhibition. At UCLA, I began collaborating with David Beaudry, a Ph.D. student in music who composed and spatialized the soundscapes to be used in the physical installation. David and Gerald collaborated on the sound interface online, and met for the first time just days before the exhibition to set up the work. This kind of Internet collaboration would not have been possible until very recently. Initially, my intent was to create a site-specific piece that was networked, with the idea of continued further remote development. However, we found that the connection at the exhibition site was slow - only a modem was available – and we had to shift to creating both an on- and off-line version. Datamining Bodies was the only networked piece in the exhibition and it required a fluid collaborative process, along with a constant network connection.


I was inspired to somehow utilize these principles of tensegrity for envisioning a different type of body, an “energetic body,” meaning a body that is networked and built from information, but not dehumanized. This led me to consider some of the Eastern representations of the energy centers, specifically the chakra system. “Chakras,” which means “wheels” in Sanskrit, are points of energy believed to run along our spine. Ancient Hindus formulated that there were seven of these energy wheels, each a different color and spinning in a clockwise direction. Interestingly enough, the spacing of chakras actually matches major nerve or endocrine centers, while the colors correspond to the traditional ROYGBIV divisions of visible light.

I decided to borrow the chakra structure loosely, using the colors and shapes constructed from tensegrity. At the same time I wanted to get away from the human-looking “avatar” and abstract the body by using principles of tensegrity that I considered ideal for the construction of this piece because of their connection to the biological “architecture of life” pointed out by Donald Ingber (1998). The reappearance of this universal set of building principles that guide the design of organic structures, from simple carbon compounds to complex cells and tissues, became the foundation of the architecture of information that would be mined by the audience in conceiving n0time.

From 1995-1999 I was focused on developing an online participatory project, Bodies INCorporated. The project was audience-driven and much of it was developed as a response to certain demands and comments that radically shifted my creative process and thinking about future work. For instance, I consider this new piece as an evolution from Bodies INC, requiring autonomy because of the issues raised that require a different context. Thus the transition from projecting ourselves as bodies to collapsing into a space of information and geometrical patterns becomes an essential part of the project.

The most persistent demand from the growing number of people who created bodies in Bodies INCorporated (now over 50,000) was the need for “community,” and for a way of allowing participating members to communicate with each other. This made me examine the meaning of community on the Net and compelled me to extensively research the existing efforts to create communal spaces on the web. What very quickly became apparent to me is that the recent efforts to build communities on the Net are inextricably connected to e-commerce and that the architects of these spaces are following models of malls and credit card systems.

Thus, people shopping and having similar tastes are the basis of such communities, and they are increasingly using agent technologies to search through endless data based on their personal information. Yet, while these agents are supposedly empowering us as users, we don’t know how or where our information flows and these information streams tend to remain out of reach and invisible. Few people realize how quickly entire histories can be reconstructed from credit cards and social security numbers that people submit for economic transactions.

When I asked myself who the people are whom I would like to create community with, I realized that they would largely be composed of people who have very little time – in fact, the more interesting the people, the less time they seem to have. Thus it seemed to me that the logical conclusion was to conceptualize an environment that would act autonomously, largely independent of direct real-time human interaction, while representing people through the information they carry. In this system, databases, and the resultant database aesthetics, would in fact become the representation of people and interaction in this community space.

By exploring innovative ways of visualizing the trajectories of evolving human networks in relation to information, access and navigation, we will explore our relationship to time and the meaning of community in a networked environment. New methods of management, molecular and nano-political, focus not on planned communities, but on emergent communities. These types of communities require the technical infrastructure that allows for real-time collective intelligence work.

Construction of the Initial Tetrahedron

Participants are invited to spend a few minutes to create their initial minimum structure, a tetrahedron, by determining the length of six intervals, each representing an aspect of perception of self, and inputting the initial four memes. Intervals each have a color and meaning attached to them, based on the chakra system. Red represents family, orange: finances; yellow: creativity; green: love; blue: communication; violet: spirituality.

The time a person spends on deciding the length of a particular interval is registered and has an effect on the speed of replication. After determining the length, sounds are attached from a library created by David Beaudry. When the structures are in motion, the combination of the chosen sounds with the determined lengths of intervals create a personal composition.

As the cultural equivalent of genes, memes work particularly well in this context: the participants’ intervals are already inscribed with ideas; the memes are meant to reinforce the possibility of further evolution of the n0time body. Also consider the four initial nodes of the tetrahedron in relation to the four letters of the alphabet: ACTG. The four initial ideas replicate and keep evolving into a complex structure through the interaction of others.

Because we are limited biologically to having a personal network of 300-500 people, it is programmed to implode when it reaches that point of information overflow. This moment is dramatized by an announcement to the entire community, making it aware of the implosion event. At that point the person who owned the n0time body has a choice of beginning from the same initial tetrahedron, creating a new one or not continuing the cycle. The decision is also announced to the community via e-mail.

Interdependence of the Physical and Net Spaces

For physical installations, in addition to the undetermined online audience, specific people are highlighted depending on the specific site and context. Once a person creates the initial tetrahedron, their presence is no longer required. They then invite people to timeshare their geometric body by adding more memes that result in replication and growth. Time spent interacting with the n0time bodies as well as total time spent in the space is measured throughout the experience and affects the growth patterns. The physical installation of n0time allows the audience to navigate these n0time bodies with their bodies via sensors.

The experience of time and no time is heightened in the physical structure, whose base is shaped as a spiral and creates a enclosed atmospheric space with projections and a reactive three-dimensional sound environment working in conjunction with the elastic interval geometry. By spending time navigating, participants add intervals that replicate from the initial tetrahedron shape. Memes are added only online when the intervals are created by people on site, and only by those invited by the owner to timeshare the body and add further meaning to it. Thus the physical and online spaces are interdependent.

The n0time environment evolves based on time spent on communicating with others and the audience’s attention span with people represented as energetic geometries.

18.3. Nexus meme.

Physical Structure

Initially there was no plan to build a physical structure for the piece, but as we progressed in our development it became clear that there was a need to control the light and sound. Further, since n0time was scheduled to travel with the “Telematic Connections” exhibition, it became necessary to consider that the spaces would change with each location. The idea of simply building a box was not only unsatisfactory but ran contrary to the philosophy of the informational architecture. I summoned sculptor Tim Quinn to help build a structure that would reflect the work rather than simply be a “black box.” Although I would have preferred to have a true tensile structure that was lightweight and easily transportable, we had to settle for using steel for the spiral structure. With the addition of this massive structure, the project made a major shift towards deliberately making the connectivity and dependency on networks a physical experience.


Stephanie Strickland responds

Victoria Vesna responds


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