Depths and Densities: A bugged report
Depths and Densities:
A bugged report
Under the guise of a one-afternoon workshop at transmediale 2019, Possible Bodies proposed to collectively study open-source tools for geo-modelling while attending to the different regimes – of truth, of representation, of language or of political ideology – they operate within. It attempted to read those tools and a selection of texts in relation, with the plan of injecting some resistant vocabularies, misuses and/or f(r)ictions that could affect the extractivist bias embedded in the computation of earth’s depths and densities.
The workshop Depths and Densities was populated by a mix of known companions and just-met participants (in total, a convergence of circa thirty voices), each bringing her own particular intensities regarding the tools, the theories, the vocabularies, and the urgencies placed upon the table. The discussions were recorded on the spot and transcribed later. This report cuts through a thick mass of written notes, transcriptions, and excerpted theoretical texts, sedimented along five vectorial provocations: on the standardisation of time, on software vocabularies, on the activation of geontologies, on the computation of velocities, and on the techniques of 3D visualizations. Each vectorial provocation was taken up by a sub-group of participants, who assumed the task of opening up a piece of Gplates, a free software tool and web portal for tectonic plate modeling. By holding close a technical feature, a forum, a tutorial, an interface etc. for a few hours, and tensioning these with some text matter from a reader pre-cooked by Helen V. Pritchard, Femke Snelting, and myself, Gplates worked as a catalyst for our conversations. Its community of developers would eventually become the deferred interlocutors of a report.
The following cut was made to share a sample of that afternoon’s eclectic dialogues in what could be transferred as a polyphonic bugged report. All text injections (in italics, on the right side) are quotes taken from the workshop’s reader. All pieces following one already quoted belong to the same author, until the next quote in italics appears. All voices on the left emerged along the workshop’s discussion, which was transcribed by Fanny Wendt Höjer.
First vectorial provocation,
on standardized time
if multiple timescales are sedimented in contemporary software environments used by geophysics, can fossil fuel extractivist practices be understood as time-travelling practices?
this urgency is both new and not new
how is the end of time imagined, in a modelling sense?
we see discretely plotted colors
does the body of earth exist in the same timescale as you do?
or try and witness the whens otherwise
time tends to be limited to (and influenced by) the observer’s perception but what are the material and semiotic conditions for another kind of time perception?
sedimented time and coexistence at ecologies of nothingness (aka voids)
Second vectorial provocation,
on software vocabularies
forging a differently fueled language of geology must provide a lexicon with which to attend the geotraumas
user engagement with the earth through a 3D visualization software is based on metaphors like handling or grabbing
you can still grab the earth: at Gplates a stable static earth is available for grabbing
also, the use of the verb “to grab” brings with it the history and practice of “land grabbing”, land abuse and arbitrary actions of ownership and appropriation with correlated both dispossession by the taking of land, and environmental damage
but what if the earth grabs back?
if all the semantic network of Gplates is based on handling and grabbing as a key gestures in relation to the body of earth, a loss of agency and extractivist assumption slip in too smoothly, and too fast
most software platforms allow for no resistance, for no possible unavailability
middle click and drag ¡la tierra para quien la trabaja!
and what if the earth grabs back
Third vectorial provocation,
on the activation of geontologies
we are all talking over each other like tectonic plates and strata
looking at what geology is implies a reconsideration of assumptions of what life is
minerals rocks plates
cannot be separated from time
but where is the legend we could not read it
why this suspension subversion of the living
why this suspension subversion of the living
otherwise the future will keep being missing but wait, the past is also missing the line goes back to 172 million years but earth is 4,5 billion years
a color-coded chronology is that tone the year of emergence or is it duration of collapse of merging
a gradient of abstraction is being dangerously portrayed
what is the skin of a body its density how is it colored?
a chroma chart would be appreciated
like absolute dating of rocks you’re alive, I’m alive/let’s go
peel earth’s skin the mantle
and peel it back where 4D is time and meets 5D uncertainty
it does not peel back enough
Geontologies: the need of all bug reports
Fourth vectorial provocation,
on computing velocities
that is too linear, this is too straight
data has different densities and intensities and the effects and affects of the single timeline make themselves visible
leaving grey areas that show no data coverage
where is that information what is this superfiction
whole parts of grey earth like you are making a cake you can put toppings on
grey means there is nothing such as a body of earth it is almost a void
earth used as a template for almost always fractured data
zoom in this shaking surface and always find some cracks
the tool keeps wanting it to be presented as a whole the oneness of earthness as in the oneness of humanness
there is a persistently imposing paradigm of wholeness and a pretension of full resolution but a body becomes any body only if the whole thing collapses
swipe it fast so much time in one swipe
it is almost rude
take your time scroll scroll scroll deeper
theres thens truths
counting backwards and year zero does not stay
grab that time and
perhaps if you upgrade the software you can get extra time
Fifth vectorial provocation,
on the techniques of 3D volume visualization
who is behind the proposers of the Mercator projection
who is behind one more eurocentric view of it
from 2D to 3D
you are the camera!
At Gplates you can replace the pole location grab the pole and drag it
while time happens along a linear highlight of cascading data
folk glaciologies diversify the field of glaciology and subvert the hegemony of natural sciences
Gplates applies deep familiar metaphors like child plates
slide the zoom in and out of a data set of magnetic information
but how when where
but who what why
- See for a continuation of these interlocutions, The Underground Division (Helen V. Pritchard, Jara Rocha, Femke Snelting), “We Have Always Been Geohackers,” in this book.
- See also: “Item 114: Earth Grabs Back,” The Possible Bodies Inventory, 2019.
- Karen Barad, “Troubling Time/s and Ecologies of Nothingness: on the im/possibilities of living and dying in the void,” New Formations 92: Posthuman Temporalities (2018).
- David C. Nobes, “Pitfalls to Avoid in Void Interpretation from Ground Penetrating Radar Imaging,” Interpretation 6 (June 2018): 1-31. 10.1190/int-2018-0049.1.
- Kathryn Yusoff, A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2018).
- Emiliano Zapata (c.1911).
- Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Geontologies: A requiem to late liberalism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016).
- Excerpts from Helen V. Pritchard’s oral introduction to the workshop.
- Possible Bodies feat. Helen Pritchard, “Ultrasonic Dreams of Aclinical Renderings,” in this book.
- “Mercator Projection,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercator_projection.
- Mark Carey, M. Jackson, Alessandro Antonello and Jaclyn Rushing, “Glaciers, Gender, and Science: A feminist glaciology framework for global environmental change research,” Progress in Human Geography 40, no. 6 (2016): 770-793.
- Isabelle Stengers, The Invention of Modern Science (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000).
- Nigel Clark, “Inhuman Nature: Sociable Life on a Dynamic Planet,” Theory, Culture & Society (2011): 38-39.
- Gplates Download
- Gplates Webportal
- Magnesium Picks
- EMAG2 Magnetic Anomaly Grid
- GPlates Markup Language (GPML)
- Gplates Tutorial 7.1: 3D Volume Visualisation Importing and Visualising 3D Scalar Fields
- EarthByte Gplates Portal Geology
- G.plates on fictional planet
- GPlates Tutorial 1.1: Loading and Saving Data
- Enhanced Shuttle Land Elevation Data
|This text constitutes the report of a workshop of the same name that Femke Snelting, Helen Pritchard and Jara Rocha conducted during transmediale 2019 and was published on the issue #3 of the festival's journal: https://transmediale.de/content/depths-and-densities-a-bugged-report|