The Da Vinci Code: What Happens When You Twitter the Mona Lisa?
Date: 21 May 2009 | | Views: 2588
Source: WebMonkey, by Scott Gilbertson
What would happen if you tried to tweet the Mona Lisa? It’s a question even Dan Brown has never dared to answer, but thanks to a very creative experiment from Mario Klingemann, now we know — it turns Da Vinci’s best known work into something Picasso would have loved.
Given Twitter’s 140 character limit, it might seem next to impossible to recreate something as complex as the Mona Lisa. After all, 140 characters roughly translates to a mere 140 bytes of data, never mind the complexity of stuffing actual image data into text characters.
But the complexity of the task didn’t fazed Klingemann, whose experimental image encoding technique translates the image into Chinese characters and spits out a version of the Mona Lisa that’s reminiscent of a Cubist painting.
Klingemann is using Chinese characters because they allow him to send 210 bytes of data in only 140 UTF-8 characters — perfect for cramming extra data into Twitter. When the text passes through the decoder the results are what’s known as a Voronoi Diagram, a series of polygons used to convey the rough colors and shapes of the Mona Lisa.
Of course Twitter doesn’t have the decoder, so no image would show up in your Twitter stream were you to post it. Instead you’d simply see the Chinese characters. But run the data through Klingemann’s decoder and the result are what you see in the left-hand image above — not exactly the Mona Lisa, but very impressive nonetheless.
If you’re curious about the details of how Klingemann pulled it off, be sure to check out his very technical explanation on Flickr (and if you like what you see, have a look at some of his other “computational experiments“).
So far Klingemann hasn’t found any practical use for the experiment, which he says began as a competition to see if it would even be possible to send an image through Twitter. However, he plans to release the code behind the encoding and decoding process to the world to see what other curious Twitter experimenters can come up with.