Spatial Media: Traffic Flow

puckTangible interface for exploring local network traffic.

The installation will be been designed to visualize the flow of information within a local area network. The goal is to make visible the invisible layer of information that comprises our information infrastructure which generally flows beneath a general level of awareness.

A user has a very strong expectation of privacy in the data they send across the network, however all traffic shares the same space in transit on the network and is potentially accessible to all users. This is a grand departure from the convenient perspective of having an individual connection between a personal computer and the servers which deliver requested data.

The library of an academic institution is the ideal location for this installation given the diverse range of network usage inherent to such public spaces. A library affords a relative large community of users sharing a common network. The aggregate traffic is comprised of many individual threads but when combined represents a snapshot of collective information gathering.

widgetsInteracting with this installation will be analogous to the experience of manipulating a stream of water.  The user will have the ability to modify the flow of a real-time stream of data through the use of a set of tangible filters, containers, and interpretation objects.  Initially the interactive visualization will display a pure representation of the packets of data present within the given local area network.  The density of the information flowing through the scene is dependent upon actual network traffic and could dramatically vary given the usage of the given information infrastructure.

The set of available tools will allow the target user to explore this potentially dense current of information based on their individual arrangement of the available tools.  The user will also have the ability to store the contents of a given query within a container object allowing them to physically remove the container from the scene and have a truly tangible representation of the data even after being physically separated from the installation.

Presenting the rush of network traffic as populated by bits of data will grant an insight into how each user’s personal footprint is a fundamental component of the larger community.

Ameya Mhatre / Robert Carlsen

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