By the Code of Soil

Tomorrow, 5 December, is World Soil Day, a special day to raise awareness and call people to #StopSoilPollution. By the Code of Soil launches as part of this celebration in the form of an app, designed by the media artist Kasia Molga, with whom I last worked with on A Portrait of your Breath (2014).

The important of good quality soil

It’s very easy to forget the value of good quality soil, but it’s crucial to our survival. Soil provides ecosystem services critical for life. It acts as a water filter and a growing medium. It provides habitat for billions of organisms, and contributes to biodiversity. Soil even supplies the majority of the antibiotics used to fight diseases. Humans use soil as a facility for solid waste, filter for wastewater, and foundation for our cities and towns. And of course, soil is the basis of farming systems which provide us with feed, food and fuel.

“Soil is a vital element of our biosphere – the life-building entity, the recycling mechanism, the fertile ground for our food, the geopolitical territory and the land. Soil is fundamental just like air and water, but is absent from conversations about environmental conditions, unlike pollutants in air or the quality of water.”
Kasia Molga, design fusionist / media artist

By the Code of Soil

How I created the audio

It’s been a colossal challenge to try and illustrate all the live data that streams through the App. Using Native Instruments Reaktor and GRM Tools software I spent many, many hours designing sounds, mapping them into families of sound. These sounds were frequently edited down to just 300ms, to judge how they might balance with the visuals.

Twice a day, every day, the European Space Agency’s flagship satellite, Sentinel-1, passes over your head. Across Europe, thousands of GROW Observatory soil sensors have been deployed by citizens to improve the accuracy of observations from space. We’ve had access to this data and designed the artwork around this data so what you will experience happens in real time, every time!

The most rewarding moment so far has been viewing the app in the evening and then returning to it the very next morning, only to discover how differently it responds both visually and sonically! Most interestingly, when the download counter hits 1,000, the artwork will suddenly emerge across the network, appearing on everyone’s computers at the same time to create an exciting, shared sense of occasion.

By the Code of Soil is an online networked digital artwork, which invites you to experience soil through a uniquely data-driven generated audio-visual representation on your laptop or desktop computer. Simply download the By the Code of Soil software application tomorrow to connect. The soil will manifest itself to you when it is ready…

Here’s hoping it encourages a wider conversation about something so crucial, yet invisible, to so many.

Special thanks go out to Erik Overmeire and Dan Hett. By the Code of Soil was produced by FutureEverything, as a part of VERTIGO and GROW Observatory. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

By the Code of Soil