A nybble is the unit of half a byte, or four bits, which is the basis of every digital conversion. As the numeric equivalent of binary code, it exemplifies the internal logic of software that transforms codes and protocols on a server into various representations. Nybble-Engine-Toolz is a group experiment revealing such processes by converting data on a hard disk (text, sound, images) into three-dimensional, abstract clips. Participants in the experiment are seated on a ‘sofa surfer’ in the installation‘s lounge. The colorful films/visualized data are displayed on a large 180 degree screen. Players use a joystick to log onto the installation’s network and enter the gaming environment, where Nybbles, action bots and other gamers are flying about. The experiment will eventually change the Nybble-Engine’s color.
The core of the installation is the Nybble-Engine itself – a network application based on existing software of an interactive game. Participants may log onto the game-Engine from a variety of locations, including the sofa, and are then assigned a place in the network. They navigate the game’s environment, bump into other players or the action bots (representations of server processes) and communicate with them via text messages. This generates network traffic, the server log files of which are routed to the game-Engine, where they serve as the raw material for the three-dimensional audiovisual displays of the installation. The Nybble-Engine tool converts the data from the network traffic into graphic clips that are projected on the screen. In this way, the server processes become visible outside of the game-Engine and the visitors influence the software of the Engine, eventually causing it to change its appearance. As a whole, the installation illustrates the potential of communication technology to interact with digitally organized data and manipulate its outcome.
The complexity of Nybble-Engine-Toolz is explained in the installation itself in a playful manner. Inspired by the look of scientific laboratories in the fifties, a help desk has been designed where visitors can get more information about the experiment. Also, demo takes of the clips will be made and stored on the Nybble-Engine server. These archived data not only provide the necessary empirical support for the experiment’s outcome, but are also used as feedback to the experiment.