Mad Men as thousands download via bittorrent

Posted to Data Art  |  Tags: ,  |  Nathan Yau

The BitTorrent protocol lets groups of people download parts of a single file from each other, so instead of one file from a single source, you get multiple bits from different places. Artist Conor McGarrigle shows this activity via an episode of Mad Men, as it's downloaded.

The video captures an episode of the popular TV show in the act of being shared by thousands of users on bittorent with the corruption of the file a direct result of the bittorrent protocol. The video acts as a visualisation of bittorrent traffic and the practice of filesharing and avoids infringing the copyright of Madmen as it is incomplete. Curiously the greater number of simultaneous users sharing the file the more aesthetically pleasing are the distortion effects.

Poetic almost.

[via Waxy]


  • While I like the video quite a bit, it’s more an artifact of the way video is compressed as impacted by the the way slices of files are shared via torrent and what happens when data is still missing before the torrent completes. It’s not a visualization of bittorrent traffic. It’s a stretch to say that the more people sharing the file the more aesthetically pleasing the distortions are.

    I think a better explanation is here:

  • What does that even mean? “In the act of being shared”?! It’s true that a video is distorted if it’s not all downloaded, but this video is not really showing that. I’m not sure what it’s showing, actually.

    A better title might have been, “Artist attempts to capitalize on popularity of Mad Men, shows ignorance of technology.”

  • I think everyone here is missing the point. This video isn’t an infographic… it’s a time machine.

    It goes backwards and forwards.

    And it takes us to a place where we ache to go again.

    It lets us view a television show as a child views it.

    Devoid of context. Lacking meaning. Full of mesmerizing shapes and colors.

    Transporting us back home again…. To a place where we know we are loved.

  • I see the people commenting here already have the same complaint that bittorrent is not corrupting the file. You are seeing the results of the normal operation of the software that eventually produces a non-corrupt file.

    At least one client I have used allows you to specify that pieces be retrieved in order for streaming.


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