What's known is that all digital files are made up of raw data: open any image, sound, application, or otherwise in a program like TextEdit, and you'll see the Unicode alphabet representation of your chosen file. What's unknown are the results of opening, say, a .txt file in a video program, a sound file in a word document, or playing an image file in a sound editor… More often than not, importing files into applications they're foreign to will produce an error message and possibly crash your open application. Sometimes, however, using applications to manipulate non-native files results in beautiful art.
Masuma Ahuja and Denise Lu, of the Washington Post, put these ideas to the test by editing images in Audacity as if they were sound files. It's called databending— the process, according to Ahuja and Lu, "of manipulating data in an editor traditionally used to edit media of another format,"— and the simple results are as colorful and sublime as they are inspiring.
Seen with an echo effect, the Eiffel Tower lives up to Paris' name as "The City of Lights." With fades and a reverse effect, the bleak southwest Iceland seaside becomes awash with cotton-candy waves. With a little reverb, the Brooklyn Bridge gets a throwback to the color stylings of Do The Right Thing. Below, Ahuja and Lu's results are as mind-bending as they are data:
Ready to try databending your own image files? Check out Jamie Boulton's tutorial on using effects in Audacity, and Antonio Roberts' beginners tutorial on importing image files into the free sound editing software. Share your artworks with us in the comments section below! h/t FlowingData