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The Vinyl Server

Mark Rigley @markrigley

The Vinyl Server - an idea of how to build a web server that wears out

  • Web server that serves up a digital image in response to HTTP request
  • Instead of digital storage medium it uses an analog storage medium
  • Uses a custom vinyl record on automatic turntable hooked up to raspberry pi
  • Vinyl record will wear out over time, causing errors
  • Intention was to the place a digital object in an analog frame
  • Make digital content subject to entropy and decay

Inspired by a question: Can you build a website that wears out as it is used?

  • Challenged consider the lifecycle of a product and take control of forces that cause wear and tear
    • Imagining what it could look like in the future
    • Architecture: design buildings and monuments that will leave behind aesthetically interesting ruins
  • Compelled to think more broadly about ethical consequences of products (e.g., global warming and pollution)

How would you build a website that wears out as it is used?

  • Computer systems are designed to be error-resistant and hide the physical elements that run it
  • Before digital media, we had to use analog media to store data
    • Analog media are necessarily embodied as physical objects, can deteriorate
    • Examples:
      • Vinyl records and film photos sound degrade over time
  • Digital objects don’t exist in a particular place - they are everywhere and nowhere all at once, outside of space and time

Metaphysical shift

  • Digital media are like Plato’s forms
    • Plato: the world we experience through senses is a reflection of a higher realm (realm of the forms)
    • e.g., triangles in the real world are never truly perfect but there are laws and ideals about perfect triangles
  • Metaphysical framework to understand the changes new media introduces to society
    • Consequences of new media are also not limited by time and space
    • E.g., invention of writing enabled ideas to become laws, which governed geographically distributed empires