At any given moment, there can be 30,000 manmade objects in the sky above us: Planes, helicopters, satellites, weather balloons, space debris, and other diverse technologies. They watch, they guide, they protect, they communicate, they transport, they predict, they look out into the stars. In less than 100 years, the deep blue has become a complex web of machinery.
Our lives are closely tied to these networks in the sky, but a disjunction has occurred between us and the aerial technologies we use every day. We rarely consider the hulking, physical machines that have now become core to our lifestyle. By not being aware of the hardware we use every day, we may also not be aware of the social, economic, cultural, and political importance of these technologies. By visualizing them, it may lead to a better understanding of the forces that are shaping our future.
However, our understanding of this mechanical chaos is so closely tied to the scale of it all - beyond global - that visualization proves limiting. Computers can now collect massive amounts of data, but our display systems are struggling to keep up. Scale is part of information, yet we continue to reduce and enlarge everything in our increasingly well-documented world to 720x540 pixels. Our glowing screens cannot present any of the phenomenology of the data... that awe that scale inspires. Planetariums give us a way to visualize a complex system without losing the emotion of the data. Scale creates wonder, and we should not separate our feelings from the statistics... they help us understand them.
D. Scott Hessels is a writer, media artist, and filmmaker.
Writing and producing under the name Damaged Californians, his
artworks have shown in international film and new media festivals,
on television, and in contemporary art galleries over the past
20 years. His recent solo works have explored mixing new technologies
with cinema and have exhibited in Bilbao, Amsterdam, London, and Tokyo.
He left a 15 year career in broadcasting to teach digital video at both
Otis School of Design and in the Design | Media Arts Department at
UCLA. He is currently a professor of digital cinema at The School of
Art, Design, and Media in the Nanyang Technological University in
dshessels at hotmail dot com
work ranges from traditional design and art to
experimental programming works. He studied Design|Media Arts at
UCLA, and experimental print making in Pont Aven, France. His
work has shown at CiberArt in Bilbao, and has won multiple
international awards. His recent work Celestial Mechanics was
featured at SIGGRAPH 2005. For the past two years he has worked
as a resident R&D and designer for Motion Theory, a design firm
in Venice, CA, developing various music videos and commercials for
clients including Beck, Nike, HP, and RESfest.
gdunne at quilime dot com