Networked Disruptions Online Exhibition

FLEFF

Jury Prize: Endangered Data by Zachary Norman

Endangered Data (Zachary Norman, US, 2019)

Endangered Data

Zachary Norman (United States)

Endangered Data Video 1: https://youtu.be/xrAvAHPEqEI  

Endangered Data Video 2: https://youtu.be/Ldu_agZ17dE

 

Much environmentalist scholarship is enabled by the collection of data on carbon dioxide. When anti-environmentalist regimes come to power, they often commission studies to deny the science of global warming and subject critical datasets to suppression or even erasure. Environmental data is as vulnerable as environments.

In December 2016, as the US presidency prepared to transfer to Trump, scientists and librarians across Canada and the United States participated in the Guerrilla Archiving Event: Saving Environmental Data from Trump. By January 2017, the Trump administration had scrubbed the term “climate change” from the website of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The term climate change is itself a euphemism coined by rightwing pollster Frank Luntz to make global warming sound less severe and thus garner support of “energy independence.”

Zachary Norman’s Endangered Data uses the cryptographic method known as steganography to hide data from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC) within the pixels of visual images. The images can be shared, thus surreptitiously sharing encrypted data across communication systems that might be surveilled. The addition of data is itself indicated by a change in an image’s colors, which can be controlled by the user.

In this project, the color changes signify a denaturalization of ways of representing the natural environment. The dis-colorization of environments by adding CDIAC data is a visual realization of the invisible hazards of ignoring science. Soft white clouds in blue skies become dayglo-colored explosions. Mountains covered in greenery suddenly appear to sprout toxic molds. Waves that once reflected only light now glisten with neon-colored films that convey their toxicity.

CDIAC datasets document carbon cycles in the atmosphere, oceans, and land. They enumerate trace gases and aerosols, CO2 emissions, and vegetation responses to CO2 and climate. They represent the science that global warming deniers attempt to discredit, delegitimize, and dematerialize.

This project was awarded a prize by FLEFF’s selection committee.