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This article, written on the occasion of Track/09, will try to discuss ‘error’ in the field of visual communication design, which has been chosen by VCD and POV students as the concept of this exhibition. Aesthetic potential in and social implications of ‘error’ will be scrutinized with two distinct examples, one is a very recent natural and social phenomenon and the other is from a personal memory.
Eyjafjallajokull
In the course of the preparations for this exhibition, on April 14, 2010 a strong eruption on Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland exploded through a glacial ice cap, throwing a vast plume of volcanic ash around 7 miles into the atmosphere, high enough to be carried for thousands of miles. As photographers in the department following from photoblog feeds we were all jealous of the photographers who had the chance to capture this awesome spectacle. As ash from the volcano continued to keep European airspace shut down over the weekend, affecting millions of travelers around the world, some government agencies and airlines clashed over the flight bans.
“These kinds of eruptions happened all the time in the past,” says Douglas Jerram, an earth scientist at Durham University. “But the disruption is a product of how we live today.” From a social point of view, these words by Jerram summarize why we tend to perceive a spectacular earth event as an error. Eruption itself is a magnificent natural event but the dependence of social and economic relationships on international flights caused a lot of trouble to many commercial and cultural activities.
Of course not all earth-events in our common memory created scenes as visually stunning as Eyjafjallajokull. I first grabbed the notion to perceive the 1999 İzmit earthquake, which killed around 40 to 45 thousand people and left approximately half a million people homeless, as a glitch in space in a small talk conversation with two VCD students during a coffee break*. A glitch may be defined as a usually short-lived fault in a system where recently it is a concept that attracts more and more attention from designers working in digital environments as a creative process.
Again after the earthquake, national discourse, with proper reason, was about blaming the cheap and vulgar contractors and the construction bureaucracy system for the deaths. So this created the general opinion that it is ‘not the earthquake but the buildings that kill’.
The coffee break with the students ended up with us skimming through Austrian multimedia artist Peter Kogler’s installations, some of which were closely related to glitch in space. This conception is a great aperture to the evaluation of a new type of politics, originating from an artistic medium, as designing the error instead of analyzing the contrast between its spectacularity and its damages.
Verticaly Flipped 3
In the mid-80’s almost like every child with engineer parents I spent a lot of time with my father’s Casio fx-19 scientific calculator, of course having no idea about the functions of those buttons with numbers and trigonometric abbreviations printed on them. In fact I was obsessed with its ten digit, blue VF display, which is used as an 8 digit (plus the ninth for negative – the tenth digit is never used). You can visit the basement floor of the VCD department to see many of this kind of retro-electronic equipment in exhibit. Those equipments were digital playgrounds as the first experiences of interaction with a digital interface for the children of that period. The common thing was doing random calculations and observing the results. Sometimes the render on the digital display was astonishing, it was a vertically flipped “3”!
As its name implies, its display was designed and coded to display digits. Calculations resulting with a number larger than 8 digits or ending in loops displayed with an “E” representing an error and the limitations of the digital display conditions one to perceive a vertically flipped “3” instead of an error. One can see this as a visual perception trick, but it is from another point of view nothing but a visual interpretation of some significant data. Today Casio fx-19 is, at least for account of digital displays, replaced with powerful expansion (graphic) cards whose function is to generate and output images to a display. Artists and designers of today internalized the perception of error as a visual interpretation and now they employ glitch, as defined above, as a process of creation. Trying to cause some temporary errors in the circuit flow of the graphic card and still trying to get display outputs. Now they are as spectacular as a lava blowing giant volcano.
Both phenomena prove that error is a type of communication and can be designed or designed through. Damage is incorporated with error with a false definition of its realm and borders. Track/09 invites to you discuss and discover this communication potential.
Afterword

However, what is possibly more important than all of the above discussions is that, organizing Track for the ninth time, VCD and POV prove how creativity, talent and professional commons can establish a consistent ground in this new world order obsessed with social, economic and thus, cultural instabilities. This thinking and production environment, which can only be achieved by this kind of steadiness, provides the chance to university students to train themselves as creative professionals and academics reevaluate trending concepts isolated from the social deformations of occupational life.

Ahmet Atıf Akın, MSc.
Bilgi VCD
Full-time Academic Staff

* Thanks to Refik and Fehmi for the coffee.

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