David Chatting has been the technical consultant for Zoom Obscura and writes in this blog post about his rendering of the Zoom ‘assemblage’
My intention in drawing this map is to identify sites of potential intervention with the Zoom assemblage. I want to hint at the physical configuration of space at different scales and the technologies between, in a social and business context. I want to show both what is known but also represent was is unknown and what remains obscured.
Starting in the centre with the user, I am using da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man to represent the whole human body – and in doing so calling into question this peculiar subject and the assumptions it makes about us. The body is then partitioned by a landscape crop, with an aspect ratio determined by the camera. That body will be situated in a space and context, in lockdown typically a private home, now more or less visible to the camera and the outside world.
The camera will have some arrangement to the screen – where it is embedded into the computer this will be fixed – often high and centrally and this will change the perspective of the scene. The camera feds this two-dimensional view of the three-dimensional form into the Zoom app which mirrors the image and arranges it into the familiar grid. The interface offers a small set of allowable actions. Mediated by the host operating system the Zoom app relies then on a network to create connection. This will most likely be via wireless WiFi home network, that can be contested by other members of the household. In the UK at least, domestic bandwidth provision is typically asymmetric with the assumption of data consumption, rather than production.
The map then moves up a scale from the individual to the network; looking out from the Internet Service Provider (here BT) we must conceptualise the Internet. With some technical knowhow, by inspecting the network traffic that Zoom creates we can identify the servers to which it connects – but because of encryption little about the data content. The names of these servers are often suggestive of function and organisation and further lookups can reveal registrants giving an indication of international location. This map then suggests a constellation view of the Internet in which the paths to known servers can be partially traced out. However, it is unknown what subsequent connections these servers make in the network and how data is further exchanged.
At the final scale I borrow directly from a tradition of map making, here Pierre de Hondt’s Tabula anemographica seu Pyxis Nautica (1741), to suggest the (largely unknown) external forces at the periphery that shape the seasons and weather – the motivations and business models that enable these platforms. Here be Surveillance Capitalism.