The Ruins of Twitter | Ioana Iliesiu

The End of the Universe is very popular,’ said Zaphod… ‘People like to dress up for it…Gives it a sense of occasion.’ -Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

Mostly all of us, or at least a big percentage, are users of twitter. According to wikipedia, twitter had 400,000 tweets posted per quarter in 2007. This grew to 100 million tweets posted per quarter in 2008. By the end of 2009, 2 billion tweets per quarter were being posted. In the first quarter of 2010, 4 billion tweets were posted. As of June 2010, about 65 million tweets are posted each day, equaling about 750 tweets sent each second, according to Twitter. Having all these data in mind, it’s not strange to see a student project that uses twitter as its main topic.

Architecture student Ioana Iliesiu [shortlisted for AA Nicholas Pozner prize] designed a project that is basically a monument to the Death of The Internet, located near the fish-smelling Suðureyri, a village of 300 in the Wild North-West of Iceland, in a secluded fjord streaked with ashy glacier streams [from the nearby dying glacier of Drangajokull]. As she wrote:

As opposed to the bone fossils, the Ruins are not a way to save data. They are a monument of the Death of The Internet. A cluster of sounds and infrasounds in an empty fjord, attracting whales and scattering cod. In the server dome, tweets are recited by a mechanical voice – in real time. The server hangs, creaking, from a pulley system, hovering over an interior salt water lake. The Dome’s shape and the water help the acoustics. The Dome is streaked by ribs with a system of ossicles that vibrate in tune with the tweets. The vibrations are carried through the tensioned ossicle wires. They hit an ossicle wall enveloped in atomized icy water [a cold mist].

Iliesiu describes the current times as the age of the data-loss paranoia. According to her, our behavior is based on an obsessive back-up system, where we save, we update and upgrade, in a race with crashing computers and obsolete hardware.


An article on the dangers of digital gluttony.

The project is formed by printing walls, support frames, ossicles and the atomizing chamber. The bony, sharp ossicles etch recordings of the tweets. Men and women, in search of lost tweets, huddle in the cold mist, with headphones and record needles. A concrete dome, its bottom filled with salt water [for better acoustics], is the place where the server hangs. Digital voices recite tweets, which reverberate through the room.


A collection of ossified digital data being researched in the Heterotopic Data Institute, Reykjavik

As part of the project, Iliesiu designed the prime Internet Medical centre in the world, called The Heterotopic Data Institute in Reykjavik, as an institution that began as an annex to the project of moving 80% of the world servers to Iceland, using the development of the digital data fossilizing technique. And she adds:

By using biocomputing we will no longer tuck our data under our pillows, on crashing hard drives and dvds. I propose a technology that feeds into the fear of data loss and builds data bases to extreme closeness – under our skins, growing out of our bodies.

By modifying the DNA of bone cells to react through a change in chemical composition to react to a binary input, the cells multiply and grow, working like a frantic 3d printer under the skin. The algorithm behind the process of the Twitter ruin goes from the constant input of worldwide tweets [using the average of aprox. 300 per second] to a printing faze and then to a new reading faze. The point was to establish the workings of an ever dynamic data bank that would escape its digital dependency after the input faze and would rely, in its printing/reading stages, on mechanics alone.


The Ruins of Twitter


The Ruins are not a way to save data. They are a monument of the Death of The Internet.

These new ways of interaction, using digital data tools have transformed even the way we conceive the world. We’re living in the middle of the real and the imagined in a space where architecture enters into new relations with the territories of science and fiction, as Liam Young describes it. The task of the AA’s Unit 7 is to embark on a voyage to bear witness to the alien landscapes of technology and we can’t imagine other project more embraced with science-fiction and 21th Century technology as the Ruins of Twitter.

Related to the project Networked Publics: Publish, Kazys Varnelis recently pointed that the media industry is in flux: as new media rise, old ones are victims of creative destruction. We agree with that point of view, the world is changing so fast now, that when we finish writing this post, a new technology will be waiting for us and it’s possible that in a few decades, instead of dinosaurs, archeologist of the future will look for a full gear index hundred year old tweets.


Frontal Elevation. Showing Twitter Waterfall Falling into the Ocean


The Ruins of Twitter

Liam Young and Kate Davies, referring to this experience commented that in their department of Intangible Technology, Ioanna has encoded the ephemera of web 2.0 into data fossils that calcify on our own bones, and are etched into the layers of glacial ice. Their Climatology Quiddale is squatting a waterfall to protest for water rights.

And Ioana ends her work saying: “The lower area of the ice library is slowly melting. Through canals dug in the heavy concrete base, the twitter streams form a data waterfall that opens towards the Arctic Ocean, in a whale-full bay.”

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– More info and images at the AA Intermediate Unit 7 Projects Review 2010. Ioana Iliesiu
– We want to say thank you to Ioana for kindly sharing her project with us.

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