Blockchain Aesthetics, 2014-2015, HTML5 and JavaScript

Visualizing Bitcoin (and other blockchain) transaction hashes and block hashes as the content of modernist and postmodernist aesthetics.

What was a trickle is now a flood. The amount of information that blockchains process is incredible, each transaction representing some (ultimately) human-initiated action with meaning we can often only guess at. The volume and rhythms of these transactions contrasts with the slower and ultimately more regular procession of the blocks they are gathered in to.

To be able to see that information, to get a feel for its flow, may be a kind of landscape art. Or a kind of very minor history painting. To restore the information that these aesthetics have historically excluded may be a kind of kitsch, or misplaced jouissance. Or a recognition that these aesthetics were always haunted by the limits of depiction and what they exclude to reach them.

These are the visualizations -

Hashes rendered as a rows of coloured squares. Each byte of the 32-byte hash is rendered as a square of colour from a 256-colour palette:

Hashes rendered as paragraphs consisting of words from a standard list:

Hashes rendered as a 16x16 1-bit bitmap (original Macintosh-style, 1 is black):

Hashes rendered as spots of colour from a 256-colour palette:

Hashes rendered as drawings of lines connecting x,y co-ordinate pairs taken from the low and high 4 bits in each 8-bit byte in the 32-byte hash. Each transaction is joined to the next as part of the same continuous drawing:

Each hash rendered as a 16x16 1-bit bitmap, as above, with a face recognition algorithm used to find any collections of pixels that accidentally resemble faces. These are outlined in red:

Each hash as instructions for a turtle graphics pen:

Life games with each hash as the starting board state:

A Chernoff Face of each hash:

Cellular automata with each hash as the initial row:

Quadratic curves with the bytes of each hash as the control point co-ordinates:

Rhea Myers, BC, Canada