– Charles Weak
One of the primary operations of the internet is the collection and storage of data. This frequently happens passively through data mining functions, like cookies, which collect and store data on users’ online habits often without the user’s knowledge. While users might object to the unconscious collection of their online habits, other users actively participate in communities that compile user generated data, dumping hoards of data and digital artifacts into centralized databases. These databases host user-built content that generate knowledge and content outside of traditional design ideology. In these databases, the objective is to create content which is shared and seen by as many people as possible. Users attempt to create objects that have the greatest possible trajectories to the screens of other user.
The technical skill of users working on digital objects (images, models, etc.) varies widely, from experts who generate considered objects, to beginners who share objects that displays design “innocence”. These databases host more objects made by beginners than by experts usually, but the messier objects host their own psyche which can be mined for design intent. Ruminating on the Id like qualities of these databases recalls works of Architecture like the Watt’s Towers in LA, which were produced by a single person, Simon Rodia, over thirty-three years, while he was working construction jobs in LA. Rodia’s towers are an amalgamation of concrete, steel, pieces of glass, and other discarded or leftover construction material that he laborious worked into steel towers up to one hundred feet tall.
Banham wrote about Watt’s towers as an embodiment of “innocence” referring to Rodia’s lack to training as an artist as a mechanism for creating a different form of architecture in LA, a public offering to the city. Rodia’s tower was a product of thirty years of slow work in his free time, collecting objects he gathered from surrounding LA’s streets and general ecology. Banham writes of the Watt’s towers as both a form of personal gratification and a piece of public architecture, built out of the leftovers and extra parts from around LA. While at a different scale, the impetus for creation seems similar between artists like Simon Rodia and users who create content for digital databases.1
In “Junkspace” Hal Foster acknowledges the messy chaos of the internet as a sort of pseudo urban space, where pop sensibility intersects with a surreal space, where a diverse array of objects exists contextually, and users orbit around the urban space. Surfing through a database, like surfing through the internet, has an experiential quality to it that seems associated with the surrealist experience of drifting through a city. A technique where someone passes through various environments quickly and without a specific purpose taking in the strange happenings and contextual relationships of urban spaces within a city.2 Drifting through the space of databases offers an experience that creates an analogy that compares architecture with digital objects, and unexpecting contexts with a context that’s eager to be consumed.
Imagining urban spaces as both digital and physical spaces recalls a type of database that houses digital objects with a trajectory towards physical objects. Thingiverse is an online database that stores content generated from users that range in skill form beginners to skilled in digital modeling and are organized by popularity and downloads, like a typical database. However, Thingiverse’s database is organized specifically around creating digital objects to be 3D printed, which has made it popular for hobbyists and DIYers. Hosting objects that have a digital to physical trajectory and being created by a wide range of skill levels leads some of the objects on Thingiverse to have curious relation to scale, design and function. The objects are mostly kits for models, parts for plastic mechanisms, desktop items like flowerpots and pencil holders, etc.
Some of the objects work quite well as considered smaller objects, while others can be design oddities and don’t suggest a scale or suggest multiple scales (which is not a negative criticism as much as an acknowledgement of the space between how architecture works and how it’s perceived by an innocent public). Some objects seem to be designed to be building like while visibly failing as building, and some objects were designed generically but host forms that would lend themselves to interesting objects or architectures. They all, however, exist indeterminately in the gray space of the database, holding the technical exertion of the user in perpetual limbo like a series of contained methodological memories or artifacts. These artifacts form the basis for internal sharing and observation by other users.
In Thingiverse space, the storage of these objects constitutes a forum where people can drop their work or sample the work of others to create new objects that reenter the site, trying to become more popular and more replicated. The objects vary in size and complexity, but importantly are all equally valid objects in the databases hierarchy, they all hold value to their creators and to the community you take the abstract objects to use for their own observation or creation. Treating these objects as “considered objects”, Digital Rubbish examines five digital objects as abstract artifacts created by an innocent author, that have realized a measure of design where some form of criticism is due. In reviewing the objects from Thingiverse, Digital Rubbish, seeks to acknowledge the relevance of database objects by considering the objects as objects that merits review.
Courtesy of Charles Weak