The publisher Link Editions recently released the publication Diff in June, a project by the artist Martin Howse, whose work received the VIDA 8.0 award. With 1673 pages, available in PDF format or on paper (in a smaller version of 740 pages due to printing limitations), the book is the result of patiently transferring all the data registered on a computer that had been modified from one day to the next, during the space of one month. Howse extracted these data in June 2011 and selected the part corresponding to one day, which is what now fills the pages of this sizeable book.
Diff in June thus recounts a day in the life of a computer, a diary written by the machine itself in which it records all the changes that have occurred on its file system. According to Howse, the resulting text becomes “a novel involving the archaeology of process data, including those which are legal and illegal (downloads), personal and administrative information, source codes and systems.” The artist believes that the hard drive of a computer is a “surface for constant excavation”, which reveals the user’s life as well as that of the machine itself.
In exploring the book, which initially seems a simple accumulation of meaningless letters and numbers, we discover the processes carried out on the computer and can even access links to the websites that the user has visited and the files they downloaded, thereby recreating a portrait-in-progress of the person manning the machine. Howse’s book also takes us on an exploration of the inner life of the devices we use daily and the traces left by our activity.