Babel (2001)

Babel is Shockwave work in which a new navigation system for searching the web is explored that is based on the Dewey Decimal Classification Sysyem. Here the wealth of information within a library is a metaphor for the abundance of information on the web. The new navigation system features a pulsating array of numerical information that changes size and color depending on the position of the mouse. Clicking on a DDC number launches the corresponding website in a new window.

Full Description

Babel is a site specific work for a non-site. The context of the work is non-physical. The site is an abstract thing...information space and the taxonomy of knowledge that all libraries represent...which the Internet, where the project is realised, is.

The Dewey Decimal numbering system, used in the cataloguing of library contents, is the key metaphor, visualised in a three dimensional multi-user space that is itself a metaphor for the infinite nature of information.

In Babel, the Dewey Decimal system is used as a mapping and navigation technique. The structure of the library is re-mapped into the hyper-spatial that constitutes the Web. The Dewey numbering system is employed as a means to navigate the internet itself, the taxonomy inherent in the numerical codes mapping onto web-sites that conform with the defined subjects.

The Dewey Decimal system is based on two concepts; firstly that each area of knowledge can be defined as a number and that the space between each numbered area is infinitely divisible. This allows the cataloguing system to be both navigable in its subject headings whilst able to contain an infinite number of potential entries in the catalogue. As such, it is a simultaneously finite macrocosmic and infinite microcosmic system.

In Babel, viewers logged onto the site are confronted with a 3D visualisation of an abstract data space mapped as arrays and grids of Dewey Decimal numbers. As they move the mouse around the screen they are able to navigate this 3D environment. All the viewers are able to see what all the other viewers, who are simultaneously logged onto the site, are seeing. The multiple 3D views of the data-space are montaged together into a single shared image, where the actions of any one viewer effects what all the other viewers see. If a large number of viewers are logged on together the information displayed becomes so complex and dense that it breaks down into a meaningless abstract space.

Viewers are able to generate specific Dewey Decimal numbers, a dynamic interface keeping them informed of web-site addresses that conform with the subjects thus defined. Viewers can select any site with a simple point and click of the mouse, opening the site in a new window.

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