Under One Sky
C++, YouTube videos of skies
For nearly 10 years, I have been downloading all the YouTube videos of the sky I could find using the words “sky” and “clouds” translated into many languages. To date, I have collected hundreds of these videos.

All over the world, people are captivated by the sky. They record it using their smartphones or with DSLR cameras to create time-lapse sequences. Sometimes these videos are created to be used for meditation or during prayer at church. Sometimes people simply want to share the beauty that they see in the world with others. They add music earnestly attempting to express how they feel looking up at the sky. They upload these videos in a generous, asynchronous act of sharing. YouTube is notorious for its toxicity, but there are no cruel comments on YouTube sky videos. Commenters give compliments and say thank you for sharing as well as make polite requests to use the clouds themselves. The original poster says thank you for the compliments and thanks people for reaching out for permission to use the video. Often the original poster also expresses interest to see people’s projects and how they used the skies. There’s only kindness and generosity.

I wrote a C++ program and OpenGl shader to combine these sky videos. When this program runs, it generates a collective sky synthesized from the skies captured by real people all over the world. The accompanying generative sound track is made from the original soundtracks of the sky videos that you are seeing blended on the screen. This work can run forever never producing exactly the same visuals or sound. The structure of the algorithmically generated visualization and soundtrack reflects the structure of the asynchronous online interaction between strangers engaged in this generous act of sky sharing. This is an example of a simple but beautiful, unintentional social network created through sharing videos of the sky.

During this unprecedented time of social distancing, we live under one sky, both together and apart.