The Universal Digest Machine

The Universal Digest Machine installation, by artist and designer Marius Watz, features a web spider that crawls the net, digesting web pages, outputting a brief analysis of their contents and printing it on a receipt.


Receipts fall on the floor, becoming a heap of ultimately incomprehensible artifacts, representing information but no longer in a human-readable form.

Since the spider is indiscriminate about the links it follows, it ends up in places most human users would never reach, giving equal space to Microsoft white papers and scat fetishism. Just as antique maps would be marked with dragons and monsters where the cartographers’ knowledge of the world ended, there may well be terrible and wonderful things lurking on the web just outside of reach.

Some weirdness was discovered during development. Networks of interlinked fake web sites advertise pornography and online gambling form networks. Blogs often feature over 500 links and 500kb of text on a single page. While debugging the spider it repeatedly choked on Pro-Bush blogs due to their sheer volume.

To spiders, blogs are self-referential black holes, and so search engines have started to give them low relevance ratings or avoid them altogether. Some observers predict the death of the famous PageRank mechanism, all the while bemoaning their dropping Google rankings. For as we all know by now, on the web you are only worth as much as your googlerank.