R: Could you shortly explain the projects that were the most important for you if you look back at the last trimester?
J: I've done mainly three variations on same theme let's say. I had an interest in how Internet content is based within certain physical places. I have been working with this open source database from maxmind called GeoIP, it enables me to retrieve geographical coordinates associated with IP addresses. I then used those coordinates to retrieve a representation of the place with Panoramio, a geolocated image sharing website belonging to Google. It enabled me to geographically contextualize websites that I had found in my browser. So the first thing I made was a little booklet associating URLs and photos of places. Then I also made some a few postcards, using the same method, which I thought awould be lighter. The project became then some kind of nod to the Snowden affair. The important “websites” become important “places” where events took place. It was a lighter way of approaching the topic. The postcards highlight some functional aspects of the Internet. The medium of the postcards, refering to the postal system, could be some kind of functional metaphor of how we retrieve content. I thought that they could be some functional metaphor of the addresing. And I made a browser plugin which enables you once it's activated to have the image associated with the location retrieved through the url to be superimposed on the content in the browser tab.
R: How does the story of Snowden does relate to the postal system as metaphor?
J: This is quite basic, I thought that the postcards were highlighting some functional aspects of the Internet. Before this affair people were not too much aware of what's happening backstage while they browse content or exchange online. The way that things function is very controled but in such a way that people using the system don't really realise where it happens, there is a zone of obscurity between the point A and B. Also, when you start too look at the places where you get content from it appears a bit more clearly that things are encapsulated within certain nations.
R:What do you mean, based in certain nations?
J: Well, most of the content you access and data that you upload on line arrives mainly to a limited range of countries owning infrastructures facilitating hosting and storing.
R:You talk about the monitoring and postal system as one part of the project, how does it relate to the browser plugin?
J: That doesn't really relate to the browser plugin I think, that one is more of a self-tailored experience. What I find interesting about the plugin is that you have a sort of overview. It's still speculative, it's not exact of course it'sjust giving you an impression of localisation. As an ensemble you can have more or less familiar landscapes so to say. For instance if you go more often on Facebook and Google and AOL, you are gonna have rather western landscapes reprensentation. It is very rare that I get some impression of exotism. It's quite like I have to seek foreign content to reach certain countries. But it's very direct and easy for everyone to try it.
R:Is it also something that you want to challenge or question, the fact that it's hard to get foreign views?
J: There is no revendication from my position I think. I'm rather trying to contextualize, perhaps have an impression of where I am when I am browsing. I'm not trying to change things but to make their specificities appear more clearly. Perhaps it is some sort of mapping. The World Wide Web metaphor becomes then super deceptive.
R: These projects are about showing the system behind the Internet so to say, at least it is how it seems to me. In your other works there also seems to is a lot to do with place, location, address, is it something like a theme that you feel the need to get back to constantly?
J: Perhaps I'm trying to find where things stand at in relation to others, also where I am. It's hard to say because I think I follow some path intuitively but it's hard to formulate it. Perhaps my interests lay in: where you think you are, where you actually are, how you understand where you are. For instance if you look at a map you know where you are not through something you witnessed but because you understand how to read the map and because you trust it. It's a curious thing because nothing around you tells you that you are on that continent, in this part of the world. Addresses are interesting as well, they enable machines and people to be reached.
R:Where you are, is it something not determined, is it a flexible definition?
J: I think it is. You are where you are in relation to something else.
R:So you see for you an address is like a metaphor?
J: It's more kind of a system, a regulation, a codification to be able to index places.
R:Where you are, does that relate to being somewhere virtual?
J: It overlaps in a way. The interesting thing with the Internet is that we think we overpass physical limitations that we have with our physical conditions but at the same time it is very physical and located.
R:In what sense do you mean?
J: If the cables under the water get cut, the Internet is slightly broken. Things move at light pace across landscapes populated with humans, that's very confusing. Then content gets back into hardware made of components, it's very physical again. I find it complicated to assimilate that actually, but very fascinating.
R:Is it a similar question as who am I?
J: I wouldn't have thought about that this way but yeah you are who you are in relation to others and so are you where you are.
R:Is this also a notion you feel you'll continue within your new project?
J: There is this metaphors database with Manetta. What is interesting is that there is an understanding superimpreposed on you through the naming of things. The connotation of the name and the actual what it is can be very different.
R:Could that relate to what we are doing with Florian, the sign for the thing and the thing in its essence?
J: It could be related to what we're doing with Florian yeah.
R:How we think things are and how they actually function?
J: It's always in a feedback loop. Because you understand things in a certain way, it will influence your experience but from experience you might refine your definition of a category you had pre established. You understand the idea of flowers because you've seen some, smelled some etc. But because in your mind certain things fit this category, you might one day enconter a flower that doesn't fit the category you have pre established (new shape, or colour). This might force you to update your definition of the category or you will just miss the fact that this is a flower.
R:So you mean things like the cloud for instance?
J: Yeah that's one object I am very interested in, because through that word I do very much struggle to understand what it is. I feel that it's something that is floating in the air, which is surely not the case.
R:Does that relate to the world wide web metaphor, when you said it was wrong?
J: It does indeed. It supposes that it encompasses the entire world in a very distributed and non hierarchised way. Not every part of the world is connected the same way as another. There is no fair repartition at all. Which is no problem at all but it should be made clear. But then we think that any corner of the world is accessible from one click. It is not true on two levels, infrastructurally and culturally. I won't suddenly go browse japanese websites because I just won't get anything out of it, because I don't read Japanese.
R:Do you feel frustration with those metaphors coming that, do you want to expose that in your project? Do you have a goal with the project?
J: Not yet but I think that they work a bit like perspectives, like different types of point of views for the same object. The different experiences we have with clouds for instance get re assigned to other things so then we naturally assign their characteristics onto the target of the metaphor. But as it highlights certain aspects or tells certain stories, it also hides other aspects. It could be interesting perhaps to compare what is a cloud in real life and what it is in computing. Perhaps it would be quite poetic to have some common taxonomy of clouds, all the things called clouds weather they are full of data or water.