Database for Animation Studies


Proteus and the Digital: Scalar Transformations of Seawater’s Materiality in Ocean Animations

This article analyzes the discursive and conceptual equation of the ocean and the database. Considering how the chemical and vital properties of seawater serve to transform what is ‘stored’, the language of flow and fluidity is inadequate to describe what seawater actually does to things – it encrusts them, rusts them, adheres burgeoning life-forms to them. Seawater asks us to rethink terrestrial notions of the archive or database as informed by the language of earth and sediment, and instead consider the ocean-as-database in terms of seawater’s capacity for protean transformation. Although the protean properties of seawater are meaningful at a macro scale, on increasingly microscopic scales, multiple processes of abstraction make seawater commensurate with digitality. The author considers the stakes of focusing on different scales of seawater and its materiality, taking as her examples two different data visualizations/animations: Google Ocean (scaling the ocean down to the size of a computer screen) and ATLAS in silico (scaling ocean microbial genomic data up to the size of a projection, or cluster of computer screens). She concludes by asking, how might a theory of media evolve from the materiality of seawater differently on macro and micro scales?

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Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal
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