Lucent (2007)

Our backgrounds in photography and our parallel investigations into the "datasphere" of online information drew us to collaborate on Lucent. Within our individual bodies of work, there has been an impulse to tap into the abundance of already-accessible information and images that exist online—extracting meaning or assemblage of meaning from these sources. This idea unquestionably lends itself to the idea of conducting research within our digital culture.

The skylight in the Office of Research Affairs was our source for inspiration. The building's structural design is rare among the concrete, multi-story, architecture of UCSD. We wanted to use the skylight, along with our experience and artistic practice, and somehow link these within the framework of the function of this particular building and its staff.

This building's features and our interest in access, retrieval, and indexing of information led us to two preexisting databases, The UCSD library's Roger database, and the database ...

Full Description

Our backgrounds in photography and our parallel investigations into the "datasphere" of online information drew us to collaborate on Lucent. Within our individual bodies of work, there has been an impulse to tap into the abundance of already-accessible information and images that exist online—extracting meaning or assemblage of meaning from these sources. This idea unquestionably lends itself to the idea of conducting research within our digital culture.

The skylight in the Office of Research Affairs was our source for inspiration. The building's structural design is rare among the concrete, multi-story, architecture of UCSD. We wanted to use the skylight, along with our experience and artistic practice, and somehow link these within the framework of the function of this particular building and its staff.

This building's features and our interest in access, retrieval, and indexing of information led us to two preexisting databases, The UCSD library's Roger database, and the database of photographs from the online, photography-sharing, social networking site, Flickr.com.

The Roger database is UCSD's online library record and catalog that makes all the books, periodicals, Government publications, and other materials of the library accessible to students and researchers on an unimaginable number of topics. This library catalog is aptly named "Roger", after Roger Revelle, a proponent figure in the founding of the University of California, San Diego, and also in the funding and implementation of academic studies and research within this institution. From the Roger database, we chose a specific subset of book titles that included the words, "Light, Lucent, Illuminate, and Illuminated". All entries containing these particular words could potentially appear within this installation.

The possibilities of light, the physical window of the skylight, and the idea of a camera lens as a window, led us to the database of online photography, Flickr.com. Flickr.com uses the user-assigned organization technique of "tags", or one-word descriptions that a user gives to his or her images when they have been uploaded publicly to the site. We used this system of "tags" to search for relevant photographic images for each of the words in the book's title. Roger gives us the book's title and users of Flickr.com give us the images, which are pulled by the system, through their descriptive tags.

An interesting development occurred while creating and testing this system. Words that are left untagged, can be tagged by viewers. If, for example, the word, "photodeficency" produces no images within Flcikr, a viewer of this piece can tag their own images with "photodeficency", and the next time that word is viewed by the system, the newly tagged image will appear.

We are constantly reminded that we live and work in an information age. Yet the information is accessible to us only when sorted, categorized, indexed, tagged, or made available by some other supporting structure. By combining that which is concealed, making it public, we want those who interact with this installation to consider the function of this space within a broader context.

We would like to especially thank: Harrison Watts, Arthur B. Ellis, Anna Gheissari, Christine Uhry, Robert Twomey, Susan Jurist at UCSD Libraries, and Dan Coulter (creator of the phpFlickr class) as well as members of the UCSD visual arts faculty members: Amy Alexander, Steve Boyer, Adriene Jenik, Lev Manovich, and Sheldon Brown.

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