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Controlled Damage: Artistic De-generation

Controlled Damage: Artistic De-generation

About five months ago, I was upset at Bookface for what­ever rea­son. Again. I decided I wanted to post a messed up ver­sion of my user icon. Back in the MySpace days, my user icon was the lit­tle document-with-a-red-X icon that Internet Explorer throws in as a place­holder to indi­cate a miss­ing or dam­aged image. That was good, but has since become played out. I wanted some­thing sim­i­lar, but maybe a lit­tle more sub­tle or mod­ern.

This got me think­ing. About five years ago in Trent Reznor’s Year Zero ARG, part of the art­work was com­posed of com­pressed images with var­i­ous bits inten­tion­ally dam­aged. The way com­pres­sion works, one tiny piece of dam­age will decom­press into one or more mac­roblocks of vary­ing degrees of dam­age. The net result gives you large blocky “pix­els” and lines of weird col­ors and sta­tic. In the game/story/experience, the visual dam­age was used to con­vey web­sites that “leaked” through from the future.  A few exam­ples are below. You can see more of the same on my archive (yearzero.netninja.com).

I had pre­vi­ously done some­thing like that, but by hand with a hex edi­tor. This time, I wanted to try that same tech­nique, but with the abil­ity to iter­ate between edit­ing and view­ing the results much faster. Like any pro­gram­mer with a prob­lem that can be auto­mated, I wrote a lit­tle Ruby script. It is called Controlled Damage and it’s over on GitHub.

Controlled Damage lets you ran­domly dam­age a file. You give it a dis­tor­tion value (such as 1 in 1,000 or 1 in 1,000,000) and it will intro­duce that many bytes of dam­age. When I found results I liked, I opened the dam­aged image in a basic image edi­tor (Apple’s Preview app) and saved the result­ing “art­work” as a non-damaged file (that has every appear­ance of being dam­aged). I did this extra step because I have no con­trol over how var­i­ous image view­ers will ren­der a dam­aged image – maybe sim­i­larly to my image viewer, maybe dif­fer­ently, maybe it’s cor­rupted enough that it refuses to dis­play. At any rate, the results I liked I saved for later use.  Here are a few exam­ples:

I have no idea if any­one else will find this sort of thing use­ful (or even inter­est­ing), but I thought I would share, just in case.

Posted in: Code Pictures Projects

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