Back-space is an interactive installation exploring the spatiality of cyberspace in our wanderings and investigations. It tries to bring to focus our everyday dwelling with huge amount of interconnected information and the way we move in this space by using hyperlinks.
Spatial distance has always been an obstacle to accessibly. Historically technological progress has advanced in the direction of reduction or eliminating distance and erasing the differences between far and near. This compression of space was first become more noticeable with the spread of telegraph and railroads. Now cyberspace delivers the ultimate annihilation of space by making every destination effortlessly accessible and making every point uniformly distance-less.
I believe access, nearness, distance and perspective play crucial roles in our ability to comprehend at both cognitive and aesthetic levels. Distance is a part of the bodily ground for cognition and a primary force behind element of aesthetic understanding of the world. It helps us determine what is reachable and reveals what is worth paying attention to.
Backspace explores how objectifying associations in a representation of knowledge using hyperlinks affects our interaction with this body of knowledge. Participants in Backspace use their bodies to do what seems playful and magical: to navigate Wikipedia by seeking and grabbing hyperlinks surrounding them in different distances.
In back-space participants stand or move in front of a large projection screen. Outgoing links from a Wikipedia article are projected for users in 3D and each link is placed in a distance from user according to its semantic relevance to the that article. The more relevant they are, the closer they become to user.
Participant’s body is captured using a Kinect camera and they can interact and grab links by using their body to navigate in Wikipedia. The effort needed to reach a link is proportional to the relevance of the link.
The content of each article they visit appears beneath the link cloud as a block of text. By navigating inside Backspace a city-like structure emerges from the history of navigation and user can bend to land down and look through the city they’ve just created.
Wikipedia is now more than just an encyclopedia. It is an interconnected representation of knowledge analogues to a limitless library with uncountable aisles of books, described by Jorge Luis Borges in his short story ‘Library of Babel’: “The Library is a sphere whose exact center is any one of its hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible.” Similar to the library of Babel, any entry of Wikipedia can be considered as the center of this library, from which, one can wander forever from one article to another. In the ‘Library of Babel’ Borges states that the library is total; containing everything representable in every representational form. The destruction of some volumes of the library cannot possibly damage the aggregate of knowledge, since the lost ones can be recreated from its de facto facsimiles. ‘Absence’ is meaningless in an infinite library.
In a hyperlinked media, being connected is equivalent to being present; only a disconnected entity is inaccessible and therefore absent. In Wikipedia, as in Borges’ library of Babel, absence is unimaginable since all entities are interconnected with every conceivable connection. Even removing all links to an entry won’t disconnect it since it is still connected through search engine indices.
A Kinect camera is used for capturing user’s body. The environment is simulated in Processing, a framework for visual rendering, in 3D mode. The relatedness data is retrieved live from ‘Wikipedia miner‘ service. Links are connected to a reference point with a hidden spring that its length is equal to the relatedness of that link. Participants select hyperlinks with their right hand, they can grab it by closing their hands. By putting their hands on top of their head they enter to that article.They bend to look down at the city they have created. When they land down they see a landscape of the city in front of themselves and a gate, which is the description of the article they are in at that moment.
California College of Arts | MFA 2011 Exhibition: