Database Divination: Classifying The Machinic Gaze Part 1
I was pretty pleased with the video and image results acquired from yesterdays webcam experiments to continue proceeding down this path.
However said path was marred by my creaking Lattitude laptop with Ubuntu Interpid Ibex installed. It proved incredibly hard to get software installed on it, however I did manage to improve the contrast of the images snapped yesterday. By increasing the contrast the pattern is given greater relief, something that will be easy to automate via gimp or image magick.
Adjusted Images which will help computer detect patterns more readily. Final picture remains unadjusted to illustrate the importance of calibrating webcam for consistent white balancing
The ever generous Derek Shaw of SoSlug offered to oversee the upgrading of the Ubuntu software, and in the meantime I cracked ahead with using Graham Harwoods laptop to do the various image software investigations. For a while I got quite involved in finding ready made ways of analysing the motion of the tea leaves as I had detected in video recorded last night. This process has been documented here and it did offer up some nice stills of tea reading from a different perspective. I’ve collated a series of frame grabs of the video from last night (a selection of which I have added here), which have their own bewitching patterns contained within and perhaps offer a totally parallel site for exploring the different patterns seen by computer and human.
However I found that the myriad of options available to catalogue patterns within moving video (and the associated complexity attending each method, including this which at first glance appeared to be relatively pain free in terms of implementation) was taking me too far in one direction. I wanted to return to conceptualising the process of distilling the overall practice of tea leaf reading into a database. Ergo a second bout of tea leaf reading was required.
This time around I was more concerned with engaging with the practice itself rather than proving that the webcam apparatus would hold up. To that end I dove into “Telling Fortunes By Tea Leaves”, a canonical text in tasseomancy dating from 1922. This provided some useful background information, some of which buttressed areas which I was keen to interrogate and some of which make me think again about the suitability of tasseomancy as a scrying practice.
The rhetoric contained within the book follows an established trope in occult & magickal practices, the idea that the subconscious must assert itself (‘self’ is hardly ideal to use here but it will have to suffice) at some point within the ritual. Within tea leaf reading this opportunity for subconsciousness to bubble to the surface occurs when the tea cup, with a small amount of tea remaining in it, is swilled by the left hand and quickly inverted. During this moment the mind must be either completely absent or intensely focused, again this correlates with what previous research into Chaos Magicks ‘Sigil’ projection. Interestingly Cecily Kent (the author) notes that:
“time has no meaning for the subconscious self”
This is interesting for me as I am interested in using the video capture length as data for the computer to add to its database table record of the tea leaf reading experience.
The person gazing at the tea leaves is invited to discern shapes and letters. However it is at this point that tasseomancy differs from the sorts of scrying practices I was initially attracted to: there is a rigid symbolism associated with the symbols detected, in a manner not too dissimilar from other means of fortune telling. This is problematic in that the divination practice suddenly become tied to a fixed symbolic register external to the experience of the practitioner. However it is interesting as the idea of the patterns being codified per some external authority is very pertinent to the broader conception of code, (code as embedded intelligence such as postcodes, code as ordering structures and protocols external to computers) that we have developed within this lab.
Note: Sigil as used herein is not to be confused with the use of Sigil in Perl. I only learnt about this crossover in the context of this lab, but it represents another interesting transfer between the occult and code