N.E.S.T. Network examination of serendipitous transfer.
A generative software for a degenerative purpose.

by C6.org, Leon Cullinane B.A.  and Benjamin Delarre BSc.

Currently studying atMSc at Chalmers, Goteborg, Sweden.
e-mail: nest@c6.org




Nest is a distributed network application that shows the effects of continual data transfer and degradation. The data’s change is due to corruption produced over a circular online network. Audio data is passed around the ring of users maintained by a central server. This ring of data and users’ geographic positions are mapped in an effort to chart the audio’s path around the globe.


Ben Delarre & Leon Cullinane are two of several artists working under the collective name of C6. We are a small cell of like minded artists operating since 1997 to produce counter productive art works in both real and virtual exhibition spaces.

Introduction to Nest

N.E.S.T. (‘Network Examination of Serendipitous Transfer’) is a cross-platform application which examines corruption and disorder in virtual network communications. Data from an audio file is passed around the Nest network by the means of the U.D.P. protocol. The Nest application’s method of communication allows several factors such as net congestion, high traffic or poor quality connection and the inherent unreliability of this protocol to affect and degrade the original signal. Users of the application are invited to watch and listen to this process, while being engaged in a search for serendipity as the message gradually declines towards detritus.

The saving of a particular moment of the audio’s change and the visual representations are made possible by the use of the programs snapshot facility which saves the audio from the buffer as .raw file. These serendipitous moments can then be emailed to C6 and compared with other results returned by other users. This community is then mapped and each node and path of its broadcasts is displayed on a website, along with statistics and individuals comments on their findings in the Nest forum.


Nest is inspired by two works: One is SETI’s [1]  distributed search for extraterrestrial life; the other, Usman Haques ‘Japanese Whispers’ [2]   where audio was passed around a ring of mobile phones. There is an irony in fusing the aesthetics of a scientific work and the function of an artwork.

Looking for an event of serendipity in something deemed as detrimental produces a contrast between function and goal, as the aesthetics of SETI map the dysfunction of a network.

Like Usman’s work, Nest relies on its mediums transfer effect as well as on the quality of the connection in order to produce changes in its audio signal. The Nest network was constructed following Usman’s arrangement of mobiles, with each user being placed next to his nearest neighbour geographically as they login.


Conventional TCP/IP communications does not allow the type of environmental damage and degradation we wished to occur during the data’s journey around our network. TCP/IP has a 98% probability that the data sent is valid and is the same as the data sent. In order to increase the error probability we implemented the input/output part of the system using UDP. UDP makes no guarantees like TCP does, and the level of corruption received is entirely dependent on the connections involved in sending the data and various other factors such as data congestion heavy traffic and its transfer through old outdated networks and telephone lines, meaning that the rate of corruption is different for every connection.

In this way the UDP data transfer mirrors the corruptive and generative atmospheric disturbances experienced through the Japanese Whispers ring of connected transmitters and receivers. By choosing UDP several other considerations presented themselves. The main issue being that many firewalls (software or hardware devices that block traffic to the internet for security reasons) block most UDP traffic.

The exclusion of users is a dilemma for producers who have traditional ethics of web accessibility. Unfirewalled users are more likely to be home users, these lower bandwidth users would be particularly significant in successfully creating corruption within the Nest network. The obvious exclusion of the corporate and reliable connections in preference for poor and more amateur home use, gives Nest a political aesthetic that is in keeping with the ethics and practices of C6 [3]  .

Network Mapping

The network ring is represented in the geographic visualisation on a Mercator projection world map. As users join and leave, their connections need to be created with their nearest neighbours leading to a depiction of a flow of the data around the network rather than it criss-crossing. This was desired for both visual and conceptual reasons. Nests primary concern is the circular nature of its data. The mapping of users onto a world map structured the development of the Nest server protocols and the database entries of all users.

Network objectives

The act of joining a network primarily involved in the degredation and corruption of its initial signal is the primary objective of Nest. This involvement makes accomplices of its participants in the destructive data subversive. Users are asked to return their results by use of a snapshot facility. This, in turn, could be seen as the end result which allows the end user to decide when a specific moment of serendipity or instance of interest has occurred at their machine. However, Nest’s ‘art’ seems to appear between the two, each cycle of data a binary performance.

The visualisation of the global Nest network as well as statistics, bulletin boards and information on installation, running and goals of the project are of a premium importance. Nest sets out to create a community of degenerates and uses several methods to enforce that sense within the community. By encouraging communication between users, the website will provide a cross-pollination of diverse views on the subject of corruption. The visualisation of the Nest network in a world map view is the primary tool for creating this community. Users can check theirs and their neighbours’ position within the Nest ring.

As an addition to this map, the community is backed up with bulletin boards where users can talk and discuss findings with each other. Comments from the press and public have been encouraging leading us to believe that the network and community will grow in the future.


Nest's manufactured entropy is intended to imply a re-evaluation of the nature and function of data. 'Nest is a resistance to the control that insists on purity and so negates the chance of random serendipitous moments,' says C6. Maybe. There is more than one way of looking at this. Digital artists' obsession with noise or interference reflects the traditional creative tension between the Apollonian and Dionysian. Noise is unbounded dissonance; it is Dionysian. Information which is structured and rendered directly meaningful by IT protocols is Apollonian. Nest poses an interesting problem because its entropy is manufactured - in inimitable anarchic fashion, C6 is playing with the boundary between boundedness and unboundness.  'In the virtual space of strict rules of exchange,' says C6, 'the corruption of data can be seen as a form of electronic terrorism.' Or is Nest a new and alternative system of exchange?” [4] 




[1] SETI    Search for Extra Terrestrial intelligence    http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/


[2] ‘Japanese Whispers’ Usman Haques Japan 2000   http://haque.org


[3] C6  http://c6.org


[4]  Peter Carty Mute magazine 2004 http://www.metamute.com/