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TMCNet:  Accidental art of the internet ; Architect Dr Martyn Dade-Robertson stumbled into life as an artist when he began researching the connections in... [Newcastle Journal (England)]

[January 03, 2014]

Accidental art of the internet ; Architect Dr Martyn Dade-Robertson stumbled into life as an artist when he began researching the connections in... [Newcastle Journal (England)]

(Newcastle Journal (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Accidental art of the internet ; Architect Dr Martyn Dade-Robertson stumbled into life as an artist when he began researching the connections in cyber-space. Now the 34- year-old is creating stunning images that show the space between websites. Chief Reporter DAN WARBURTON speaks to the Newcastle University lecturer WHEN Dr Martyn Dade-Robertson set about researching the connectivity of cyberspace he could never have imagined the path he was about to tread.


Now - and by his own admission completely "by accident" - the quali-fied architect is a commissioned artist whose striking pieces fetch thousands.

The father-of-one began his artistic endeavour as a legitimate exploration of the internet that aimed to map websites as though they were buildings.

Without any real scientific validity, Dr Dade-Roberston, who lives with his wife, Meng, 34, a molecular biologist at Northumbria University, realised the "Data Portraits" were more beautiful than they were practical.

"It was completely by accident," he said. "When I started my research I was interested if we could understand the web as being like a building. So the images are like a metaphor for the web. With the internet we see pages but we don't really see the connections that exist." The Newcastle University lecturer uses a "web crawler" software package - similar to that used by Google - to map hyperlinks between a website and the internet around it.

"It's a software package that visits the page and then visits all the links that go from that page," said the 34-year-old, from Great Park, Gosforth.

"This way it maps the whole of the internet.

"We do it for an individual page, like the BBC, and find all the links from that page. It returns the data and information for all the links. There are nodes, which are the web pages, and the lines represent the connections between them.

"What I do then is draw the graphs with all the nodes and lines and it's a complex network pattern." His software uses "web crawlers" to see what is on each page - text, pictures, links and the code that makes it work.

They map the elements and their links to each other. The resulting lines are web addresses. Dr Dade-Robertson then uses photoshop and colour packages in a process that can take days to finish.

So far he has created pieces that map the internet around websites including Google. but he has also created art based around famous North East landmarks. Websites for Lindisfarne, Bamburgh Castle and the Baltic have led to art pieces. Dr Daded-Robertson he has received great acclaim for his work - but his two-year-old son Oliver is yet to be convinced. "He has not taken a great deal of interest in it yet," said Dr Daden-Robertson. "He came in the room the other day and he said, 'Wow'. But that was more because of the computer and he thought we were going to watch CBEEBIEs." The artworks show the navigational links that a web user sees, but also links to code, images, videos and the layer of external links which, together, make up the complete structure of a web site. Dr Dade-Roberston, who is a lecturer in architecture at Newcastle University, is taking commissions from businesses to fund his research which looks at the links between architectural design, online spaces and the way information can be visualised. He said: "I've been interested in the ideas behind the data portraits for some years now, looking at the way the online world is developing and how you could show that dense information in a new way in my research. From Page 19 "I wanted to take the web, which is something that we see every day and really just take for granted, and show a different side to it. "I started playing around with the data and found a way to capture the information and make it into art.

What is really fascinating about this is that it really is a snapshot of a website at particular point in time and if I did the same process again just a day later, the data portrait would be different as the information available would have changed. "I've decided to use any money made from commissions of the portraits to fund further research and experimentation and, potentially, to support a student scholarship. Using them to help students learn about the same idea seemed a very fitting idea. "Pages that are linked together tend to gravitate towards one another and those that are not linked tend to gravitate away from one another," Dr Dade- Robertson added. "What you get are these starburst patterns." External links fall to the periphery while the website's core links are in the middle. With the "art" idea in mind, Dr Dade- Robertson approached the Biscuit Factory gallery in Newcastle. It hosted an exhibition of his pieces in 2011 which included websites of local landmarks like one shown here of Bamburgh Castle - "landmarks, but unrecognisable". His work is currently exhibited at Durham Net Park. Each piece takes about a week to produce. The "web crawlers" take a few hours to collect data from each page. "What I get from that is a wire frame, essentially lines and dots," Dr Dade- Robertson says. He uses graphic design software and photo editing tools to add layers and apply special effects.

It was completely by accident...The images are like a metaphor for the web (c) 2014 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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