Throb


Throb (2019) in the format of installatation with a dot-matrix printer, a screen and printed source code. (more images here)


Throb (2018) in the format of a screensaver and a mock up projection

Title: Throb
Year of production: 2018 (screensaver), 2019 (installation)
Medium: Software Art, Installation

::Description ::

The project ’Throb’ makes a direct connection to an iconic and animated graphic called throbber through generating the typographical symbols with characters —, \, |, /, usually indicating (micro-)temporal actions are performed behind the screens of loading, waiting and buffering in digital culture. It is commonly seen while waiting for a transaction to complete or loading a live stream on a screen. The “now” that we are immediately experienced via streaming and displaying live data, from personal computers, smartphones, IoT devices, and among other interfaces, is essentially a delayed present with networked agencies, computational procedures and technological operativities.

This piece explores different scales of time and temporality, including spinning and generative times, machine and waiting times, processing and executing times, storing and printing times, past and present times, evolving and perpetual times, examining how the affective nowness and perceptible realities are entangled with computational operativities. While a throbber may convey a negative connotation with the need of waiting for an unknowable time, the time may be considered as unproductive or as a waste of time. Through the deep examination of times, ‘Throb’ invites speculation on this cultural icon beyond the slowness of networks and visual interpretation.

This installation built upon the earlier work of a desktop screensaver that consists of four different typographical characters. They are made to animate in a sequence that is recognized as a clock-wise spinning throbber. Although only one character is randomly selected and highlighted in red at a time by the software, and throb to loop through all the sequence and further change the original form, the whole generative pattern will evolve over time by changing one character procedurally and perpetually. The use of such symbols draws connections to machine operations in history (especially the time displays on a command-line UNIX interface) and extends to contemporary conditions in which the throbber is commonly seen in digital culture.

Consisting of a screen, a computer, a dot-matrix printer and a stack of continuous feeding paper, this installation with a piece of custom software that is programmed to generate, throb, capture, store and print a continuous presence, exemplifying the materiality of times through performing computational operativities.

>> See a longer analysis of micro-temporality here with the article titled “Throbber: Executing Micro-temporal Streams”, published by Computational Culture

>> Related work: The Spinning Wheel of Life

:: Video Documentation ::

Installation version of Throb (2019)

Screensaver projection of Throb (2018)

:: Technical & Production ::

  • 2019 ver: 1x Dot-Matrix printer (Epson LQ350), 1x Raspberry Pi4 with Firefox ESR, 1x 43″ Screen, 1x continuous feeding paper, a custom software written in p5.js and nodejs
  • 2018 screensaver – Programming environment: p5.js
  • The source code of the screensaver and the installation version can be downloaded here

:: Exhibition Record(s) ::