The latest content and news from the Barbican. Book tickets at barbican.org.uk
The latest content and news from the Barbican. Book tickets at barbican.org.uk

The /Root of it All

/root has been commissioned as part of The Space and was inspired by our Digital Revolution exhibition. The full interactive project, created by Jim Boulton and Craig Blagg, will launch in late June. In the meantime, watch the video trailer above.

Since it arrived in the 1940s, the computer has slowly infiltrated every aspect of our lives. What started off as a calculating machine, is now our entertainment system, our social space and our high street. This digital world has been created by an unlikely alliance of technologists and creatives, some of whom are idolised but most of whom are over-looked. Star Wars, Grand Theft Auto and the World Wide Web get the plaudits but they stand on the shoulders of giants.

/root is a software program that revisits the accepted history of digital creativity. From the first stored-program computers to the smartphone, it investigates the people, projects and places that have shaped our digital world. By following common denominators, /root identifies these forgotten foundations and documents their rightful place in digital history. Choose a starting point and /root plots a path from conception to most recent manifestation, creating a family tree of influence. The family members are then pitted against each other, the most influential emerging as the winner.

Inspired by John Conway’s Game of Life, /root is a zero-player game. Once a starting point is selected no further input is required, the software does the rest. The results are determined by an initial configuration based on a data set of hundreds of examples of digital creativity. All of these digital projects are tagged with the people, places, organisations and technologies that led to their creation. Within this data set are thousands of connections, until now undocumented in a single place. Like salmon swimming upstream, /root follows these connections and returns with precision to the natal bitstreams. By navigating the less explored tributaries of our digital past, /root identifies unexpected and previously unknown relationships, plugging gaps in the historical record. Free from human bias, the computer tells its own story.