samizdat drafting co.

Wikipedia Card Catalog/Bits and atoms changing places


As someone who grew up when libraries were still the densest collections of knowledge available, Wikipedia fills me with both wonder and frisson over what has been gained and lost in the transition to our virtual-everything world.

Its digital nature means that the ‘UI’ of the library bookshelf goes out the window. There was a power in being able to see the size of various sections simply by looking at the thickness of a spine. And the serendipitous discovery of related topics through proximity (due to the Dewey or LoC ordering scheme) made for a wondrous form of exploration.

I created a card catalog centered on a single entry on wikipedia and expanded out to the documents it linked to. I began with the entry for Card Catalog, following its thrity-some links and creating cards for these child nodes. The second generation expanded even further, yielding nearly four hundred grandchildren to the original article. The children and grandchildren sit side-by-side in the paired drawers of an old cabinet giving a physical read on the rate of expansion in the highly connected network of articles in the database.

An illustration of the explosive growth of links from one wikipedia page to its children and to its children’s children. Starting with the entry for Card Catalog in the center, all the pages it links to are represented as dark bars stemming off of the original. The links on each of those pages are represented as red dots budding off of the stalks.

The wikipedia pages linked to from Card Catalog consist of both the expected and the inexplicable.

A card was produced for each wikipedia page listing its abstract and pages linked to in the entry text.

The entry for Card Catalog references 34 child pages directly and those in turn reference 463 other pages. Cards for the child pages are in the left drawer and grandchild pages in the right drawer.

The Typography of Neglect/catalog and classify

In 2004 I began what I expected to be a short-lived photography project looking at old signage. To my surprise, this game of hide-and-seek with unique lettering became something of a habit, and since then I've been snapshotting my way through every new place I visit.

The site collects the first six years of images documenting some thirteen cities, seven countries, and nearly three hundred signs.

Bethesda, MD (2004)

Providence, RI (2006)

Brooklyn, NY (2008)

Fecundity/Wheat, maggots, and cellular automata

In 1973 Annie Dillard wrote an essay for The Atlantic called The Force that Drives the Flower. In it she explores the strangeness of our relationship to the natural world; a world that our animal natures should make us intimately comfortable with, yet modern life has left us with a profound alienation toward. There is the difference between flora and fauna, most notably our differing reaction to viewing a field with a million blades of grass versus seeing a similar number of cockroaches. But ultimately our lack of understanding comes down to the imposition of our human consciousness (and synthetic concepts such as morality and justice) onto the workings of an uncaring, deterministic system, filling us with dread.

Her ultimate message of hope is wry and requires a leap of optimism to embrace: “The scientist calls it the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This is what we know, the rest is gravy.” And indeed this is about the best comfort, albeit cold, that the natural world has to offer: that along the way to the inevitable there will be moments of joy and beauty. And we can savor them all the more since the only guarantee is that they will be rare and transient.

In the book's margins are a pair of dot patterns which progress in a flip-book fashion as the pages are turned. Their evolving shapes are directed by the rules of Conway's Game of Life as applied to the pixel-lettered messages on the first and final pages.

One of the more interesting ’creatures’ in the Game of Life is a self-replicating structure called the Glider. The book's cover design incorporates a diagram superimposing the different stages of the glider's progression.

Do While/Stop motion screensaver


In 1962 Edward Lorenz wrote a paper which more or less created the offshoot of physics variously labeled dynamical systems or chaos theory. Though his subject of inquiry was the sort of convection patterns seen in weather systems (and lava lamps), his conclusions took on a metaphorical life of their own. The paper lives on today primarily for its system of three equations representing fairly abstract fluid dynamics qualities. But given that there were three, he had the insight to map them onto the x, y, and z axes and graph the resulting trajectories in order to understand the dynamics of the system.

Particularly interesting to me is their approach involved a computer in running the simulation, but created visualizations of its numerical output with paper and pen. In that same spirit I created a stop-motion video consisting of individual frames of the animation printed on paper then photographed on a light table. Note the hole poked through each sheet for the ‘main’ point in the simulation.

The attractor is an iterated system in which particles' positions in 3D space are updated based on the differential equations governing the system.

Here a number of particles have been stepped through time and trails drawn over their paths. The pair-of-doughnuts structure of the attractor begins to become apparent.

The looping, chaotic behavior of particles in the attractor emerges from deceptively simple equations:

= σ(y-x)
= x(ρ-z)-y
= xy-βz

Textiles/Punchcard patterns


I've always been a sucker for repeating patterns and am known to dabble in surface design. Above is a pattern composed of (little-endian) binary representations of the numbers one through seventeen. Zeros are small dots and ones are large.

A pattern inspired by an indian soda bottle design I spied in a friend's photograph.

Fabric screenprint with just the dots from the soda design.

Posters/Making print


A silkscreened poster for a showing of the Magic Lantern experimental film series in Providence, R.I.. Made by hand in an edition of 100; printed in 3 colors on bright orange paper.

Schematics for an analog, mechanical database system using the Prehensile Query Language.

Binary attributes could be associated with entities within the ‘database’ through elastic bindings to movable frames.

A graph of construction and demolition in northern brooklyn during the bubble years. Data was scraped from the NYC Buildings Dept.

View the full poster.

A pair of pilcrows; one made with ink, the other with wallpaper, super77 and soil.

A daylong journal of my consumption in terms of both money and attention.

Download an auralization of the resulting data where the bars are mapped to notes and the day is played as if it were a piano roll.