Above: A live capture of Netscapes.
Netscapes is an automated application that uses live feeds from networked webcams to create combined and imagined landscape compositions, networked landscapes. The application does this by employing a technique called web scraping where data is retrieved from websites and presented elsewhere. Web scraping exists in a number of contexts on the web from the legitimate e.g. widgets retrieving data such a weather or statistical information from sites, to the illegal e.g. user data harvested from sites for email addresses or bank account details.
Unlike standard web scraping however, Netscapes does not retrieve textual data. Instead it retrieves imagery and considers the network as an augmented lens, an extension of our vision as a means to see distant places. In turn the computer screen is a window, a vista, on a landscape that is simultaneously real and yet impossible. We see Netscapes where lakes reflect mountains that are not there, where pyramids cast no shadow in full daylight, where hills obscured by fog are shadowed by distant mountains in perfect clarity and where a rain filled sky does not allow its rain to touch the desert it drifts over. Netscapes merge multiple time zones and so we can observe dawn, midday, dusk and night all at once. This creates a virtualised place that exists both in and outside of multiples times and spaces.
Above: Screenshots of Netscapes. Click to view slideshow or view on Flickr.
Netscapes is a landscape work in the tradition of classical western landscape art. Similarly it depicts landscapes that are idealised, displaying the most aesthetically pleasing. However the edit, composition and display of the Netscapes is in constant flux. Just as we see the method of rendering a landscape in traditional landscape art, the brush stroke or perhaps mark of the drawing implement, in Netscapes we are constantly reminded of the lens as we see drops of water or dirt obscuring the view and forcing the camera out of focus, lens flare from the sun or the pitch black of night that the webcam cannot penetrate.
Audio heard in the work is generated live and is influenced by the current composition. Netscapes currently sources 42 webcams from all over the world. All webcam locations and links can be found on the map below which documents the distribution of Netscapes ‘eye’. Netscapes is a system that can be updated with webcams as they appear and disappear from the web. Any viewing of the work is essentially a snapshot of the web and its change over time.
Above: View map of current Netscapes webcams in a larger map.