Packet Garden

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Packet Garden is an open source, multiplatform experimental art project that monitors your internet traffic and uses that data to generate virtual 3D worlds that you can explore at will.

What is the difference between geeks and artists? Not much, in my opinion, except that a small minority of artists may have more luck with the opposite sex than most of us. In any case if you like technology and fancy yourself a bit of an artist you might want to check out this program.

Its an experimental art project that interacts with the internet but, the authors insist, it is NOT “Net Art”, which they say is different from other digital art in that it is “internet delivered”, which Packet Garden is not.

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What Packet Garden does is record a bunch of information about your internet browsing activities (you have to manually switch the capture session on and off). To quote the author’s website “Packet Garden takes note of all the servers you visit, their geographical location and the kinds of data you access. Uploads make hills and downloads valleys, their location determined by numbers taken from internet address itself. The size of each hill or valley is based on how much data is sent or received. Plants are also grown for each protocol detected by the software; if you visit a website, an ’HTTP plant’ is grown. If you share some files via eMule, a ’Peer to Peer plant’ is grown, and so on”.

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Here’s some notes on my experience with this program:

  • The more information you collect (the more time spent recording and more internet activity taking place), the more complex and elaborate the generated 3D worlds (called ’gardens’) will be.
  • You can move in, out and around objects in the created virtual world. You can also view a wireframe rendering of it as well.
  • The authors stress that none of your monitored activity is shared or made public. Your “artwork” resides on your own system only.
  • I had a bit of trouble initially getting this program to run properly. You will need a powerful 3D graphics card, and some Nvidia cards will cause the program to crash. You will need to install Winpcap 3.1 (included in the downloaded zip file); if you have a later version you will have to uninstall that and revert to 3.1 (if it offers to upgrade then decline). Also, you may need to switch off any internet connections that are not delivering your internet (i.e. wireless connection if you are getting internet through LAN).

This program doesn’t have any actual practical use but I am featuring it for its sheer entertainment value. As art I personally find it very interesting: 4/5 stars (I am a very stringent art critic).

Version tested: 1.0

Compatibility: Windows 2000 or XP, Linux, MacOSX.

Go to the Program Page to Download (approx 7.88 megs).