About Containers

The idea is quite simple in some ways; it is just to partly model the process of shipping a product. So it looks like this - you upload files to the web application until it tells you that the ‘container’ is full. Then you hit the button to load the container on to the ‘ship’, which, when the ship is fully loaded with ‘containers’ then delivers them, slowly, to their specified recipients. You can view the progress of loading the ship on the web site and its progress in navigating the virtual oceans. Unlike web services of a superficially similar nature, the important thing with this project is that it takes time to both load and deliver the containers. Obviously if the system were to grow, then more ‘ships’ would be ‘sailing’ and there would be a constant flow.

The piece is designed to explore 4 themes:- Speed, Secret, Network, Object.

Speed (nature?):

You have to wait for this process. You have to wait for the whole ship to be full and then for it to make it's journey. There is no need for this to be this way; electronic documents fly around the world almost instantly. It is only the nature of this as a model that means it will work this way. But then this changes the nature of sending the documents; it automatically makes it a more deliberate process. You have to decide, maybe a month in advance, that you want to send x to person y. You also have a finite size to work with for each container; so you have to make deliberate choices as to what to put in there. If it were a paid for service, these choices would become even more important. It asks questions about the speed of transmission of data, matter, and so on.

My argument here runs against the commonly held view that the computer and telecommunications are the sole engines of the the third industrial revolution. In effect, I am arguing for the continued importance of maritime space in order to counter the exaggerated importance attached to that largely metaphysical construct, “cyberspace,” and the corollary myth of “instantaneous” contact between distant spaces.

Allan Sekula, “Fish Story”, pp50, 1995

Hidden (purpose?):

All the files sent are packaged up as containers - they will be equal in size (data size), faceless, closed, locked. It is only once they reach their destination that they can be opened up. What is inside? Just as the anonymous shipping container hides it's contents from prying eyes, the computer archive gives few clues about the files inside it. ++++ something here about the nature of removing human intervention - the more it can be automated, the easier it is to hide things inside the system; sekula / capitalism.

Network (process?):

It explores the similarity between shipping container traffic and network packets, but also their relationship with each other as it is the network packet (the order) that fills the container (with the product) for delivery by the ship.

At its heart, ocean shipping is a network business, just like airlines and telecommunications. Passengers, bulk goods, data - all three represent uniform-size cargo, shooting through global transport and sorting systems 24/7/365. Viewed this way, airline seats, data packets, and 40-foot shipping containers are much the same - commoditized units for carrying content.


Object (method?):

The system has been built using object oriented programming. The primary principles of which are abstraction, encapsulation and inheritance. There are interesting parallels between shipping containers and object oriented programming; a standardised design (abstraction) for the packaging of goods (encapsulation) for shipping across different modes of transportation (which interestingly took hold because not only was is standardised, but also it was open - given freely to the ISO standards organisation), which is turned into many instances of the design (or class), and which is extended in many different ways (inheritance).