Open Source Artifact — A Walkthrough

For the GitHub Archive Program Museum Cases, I wanted to create something that was aesthetically beautiful, and that paid homage to the spirit of open source software, and to the generations of science and engineering that open source software rests upon.

The software and 3D printing tools I used to create the cases are close to the technical edges of what’s available today, and a lot of the symbolism reflects our species’ advances in engineering of the past hundred years — but underneath the artwork I sought to express stories that are old as time and that will still be true hundreds of years from now, even as the forms of our technology change.

The imagery on the top of the box — the globe, and the swirling galaxy surrounding it — tell several stories. My interpretation of these stories goes something like — “our world is mutable”, and also, “our world can be seen, through a certain lens, as an infinitely deep ecosystem of mechanisms and patterns”. Others may see different stories — such is the nature of art.

The swirling patterns etched into the top of the box form a galaxy. There are four aesthetic neural patterns in the etched galaxy, which map to the neural aesthetics used to paint the artwork on the four sides of the box.

The galaxy on the back — if you look closely, painted in the form of equations — represents the subtle and complex mathematical patterns underlying the cosmos. Our understanding of these patterns through mathematics and science is the bedrock on which we can even begin to think about creating more complex machinery.

The engine — painted using the Navier-Stokes equations, as well as other aesthetic inputs — speaks to the growing sophistication of our relationship with the mathematical order of the universe — the practice of science begets the practice of engineering, in which we skillfully harness the patterns of the physical world to achieve specific ends.

The etheric gemstone circuitry on the other side represents our species’ foray into electronic machinery — combined with a healthy dose of wonder and awe that we live on a planet whose physical forms can be rearranged to create machines with such stunning complexity.

The hands, painted with waves and layers of code, and intentionally positioned on the front of the box, represent the current living form of the art, and the evolution of the other three layers. Our progress at this point exists through our growth in technical sophistication — but perhaps more powerfully — through our unprecedented growth as a species in our willingness to work together openly.

I view Open Source as a sort of pinnacle of evolution in this regard — it is arguably the most complex freely shared movement of technical cooperation in the history of our species.This artwork, nor the skills or tools that I drew upon to create it, would not exist were it not for a world of open source contributions, vast beyond my ability to quantify.

It is my hope that as these cases dutifully house humanity’s most foundational open source software, this artwork and writing inspires others to explore, contribute, and keep the spirit of open source alive.

Artist, Communityist, Systems Thinker, Multi-Competency Engineer

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