Network Visualisation: Grow a world from network traffic, 2006
Packet Garden was an artwork commissioned by Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, in 2006 and was their first ‘digital art’ commission.
Packet Garden captures information about how you use the internet and uses this stored information to grow a private world you can later explore.
To do this, Packet Garden takes note of all the servers you visit, their geographical location and the kinds of data you access. Uploads make hills and downloads valleys, their location determined by numbers taken from internet address itself. The size of each hill or valley is based on how much data is sent or received. Plants are also grown for each protocol detected by the software; if you visit a website, an ‘HTTP plant’ is grown. If you share some files via eMule, a ‘Peer to Peer plant’ is grown, and so on.
None of this information is made public or shared in any way, instead it’s used to grow a personal landscape, a kind of ‘walk-in graph’ uniquely shaped by the way you use the internet. With each day of network activity a new world can be generated, each of which are stored as tiny files for you to browse, compare and visit as time goes by. You can think of packet gardens as pages from a network diary.
One months after the release of Packet Garden, after extensive press, the project had reached over 140,000 downloads.