Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Pirate Cinema creates art from torrent traffic

It’s an open secret that BitTorrent makes up a large segment of internet traffic. People all over the world are torrenting legal and copyrighted content 24-hours a day. A new art installation seeks to turn that simple fact of the digital peer-to-peer world into a visual experience. It’s called The Pirate Cinema, and you can see a sampling of it right now. Keep in mind, this is the internet we’re talking about here, so there is some mildly NSFW content in The Pirate Cinema.
What you see on the screens is a sampling of the most popular torrents as indexed by The Pirate Bay’s top 100 list. Each snippet is a tiny segment of data from the full torrent. The BitTorrent protocol splits large files up into small packets so the necessary parts of the file can be transferred more efficiently to other peers that need that particular section.
The torrent process is nonlinear, thus the flashes of video projected on the screens are grainy and artefacted blips from the middle of the original content. It cuts in and out in a mesmerizing way with sound crackling to life, then bleeding into the next clip. Sometimes it’s a recognizable bit of a music video, movie, or TV show. But other times it’s just an unrecognizable freeze-frame with blaring sound. Yes, porn also is part of the mix.
The Pirate Cinema runs with custom automated software running on Mac Minis that intercepts packets from actual BitTorrent file transfers and projects them on the screen in real time. The system also makes use of Python, Libtorrent, Xubuntu, and Gstreamer to make the magic happen.
Perhaps most fascinating (and a little creepy), The Pirate Cinema includes the IP address the currently playing file segment was sent from and to. This is possible because BitTorrent transfers happen in the open where any connected peer can see the entire swarm’s IP addresses. It might be a little off-putting, but it’s also fascinating.
Now read: BitTorrent preps secure, private Dropbox alternative called Sync
View the original article here


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