Concept for a Full-Scale Diorama of the Pacific Ocean

In “A Full-Scale Diorama of the Pacific Ocean,” an interactive sculptural installation, I model the Pacific Ocean 625 square-feet at a time. Using topographic data of the seafloor and depth soundings provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), I present an immersive data visualization experience that puts the viewer at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The viewer is invited to navigate the seafloor by putting a pin into a map of the ocean.

The exact placement of the pin is translated into latitude and longitude coordinates. Then, a microcontroller is used to retrieve the bathymetric data describing the 25 by 25 foot floor surface as well as a simulated depth parameter which correspond to the viewer’s selected coordinates. The seafloor and the surface of the water would be modeled in a stretchy fabric which would be pulled and pushed into different shapes by a network of ropes and wooden dowels. The fabric landscape surrounding the visitor reshapes itself dynamically and the map user-interface allows a viewer to make either large leaps across the ocean or baby steps; in theory, a viewer could cross the Pacific Ocean in real time but due to the ocean’s size this would be infeasible.

In this age of big data, where information is measured in bytes and processing power, how is our understanding of the world helped and hindered by numerical certainties? How do we reconcile a shift in meaning caused by a shift in technics? With this installation, I hope to explore the meaning of large data sets, perhaps questioning the limits of what they can really represent.