psworld: outward, Julian Oliver 2010

Julian Oliver

psworld: inward

"psworld" is a modification of the UNIX utility 'ps', used by machines and administrators to list and sort running processes.

"psworld" maps operating system processes onto visual features in the world, creating a perceptual dependence between a computer and the world around it. As the computer's visible surroundings change, the instability of the operating system increases.

An example: a computer running "psworld" is in a park watching a bird in a tree. If the process 'Firefox' is attached to the bird's head and the bird suddenly flies away, Firefox will be terminated on the computer. Similarly, a breakfast scene may include many processes attached to various edibles on the table. As breakfast is eaten, dependent processes on the computer will be terminated. A breakfast is an example of a highly unstable environment whereas a lifeless concrete room, in continuous even light, is not.

In the version shown in the exhibition, "psworld" is dependent on a tiny pool of freshwater protozoa, seen through a 400x microscope.


Julian Oliver is a New Zealander and Critical Engineer based in Berlin. His projects and the occasional papers have been presented at many museums, international electronic-art events and conferences, including the Tate Modern, Transmediale, Ars Electronica, FILE and the Japan Media Arts Festival. Julian's work has received several awards, most notably the Golden Nica at Ars
Electronica for 'Newstweek', a collaborative project with studio partner Danja Vasiliev.

Julian has given numerous workshops and master classes in software art, augmented reality, creative hacking, data forensics, computer networking, object-oriented programming for artists, virtual architecture, artistic game-development, information visualisation, UNIX/Linux and open source development practices worldwide. He is a long-time advocate of the use of free software in artistic production, distribution and education.