Sometime soon after Netflix’s streaming service launched, Jeff Thompson found himself watching episode after episode of Law & Order. It was so easy. An episode would end and he’d click “next.” We’ve all been there. You can watch a lot of Law & Order that way.
But Thompson’s approach was different than your average binge-TV viewer’s. Thompson brought a archivist’s flair to his hours watching. As he’d go, he’d screenshot “oddities”: scenes taken from a first-person perspective, or those portrayed in an unusual split-screen fashion.
After a bit, most of the oddities melted away and just one thing—one single thing—kept popping out of the frame to grab Thompson’s attention: computers. There’s a computer. There’s another. And there’s another. He kept screenshotting them. “It didn’t take long,” Thompson wrote to me, “to realize this should be extended to an exhaustive project.”
So in 2012 Thompson applied for, and received, a commission from Rhizome, an organization in New York City that supports work at the intersection of arts and technology.
And that’s when his work really began.