If you’re friends with enough political activists on Facebook (as I am), you may have noticed your friends switching their profile photos by the hundreds to a red equals sign ahead of the Supreme Court oral arguments on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. Like a game of digital telephone, every time an image (especially this small) is saved as a JPEG, it is compressed again and again, causing artifacts to be more and more visible. In a sure sign of its viral success, as time goes on the equals signs in my Facebook newsfeed grow increasingly degraded.
This process reminds me of this video that was uploaded to YouTube 1,000 times, using its compression method to transform the video into something entirely different. In 1969, composer Alvin Lucier came up with the concept by repeatedly playing and re-recording his voice.
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