Pretty Lights

Proposal (version 3)

Posted Fri, Nov 12, 2004 at 12:00 PM

Points of Contact is an online/offline art installation. To get an idea of what it looks like, picture a single-colour LED matrix display (like those used as �tickers� or for �marching� announcements) measuring 5 feet by 5 feet. This display, however, is lying on the floor and protected with Plexiglas so it can be walked on.

Infrared sensors measure if � and specifically where � there is human activity above the display. This data is sent to a multi-user web server where the information is subsequently broadcasted to an internet application. At the same time, the mouse cursor activity of online visitors are broadcasted back to the LEDs.

Displayed continuously on both are the autonomous actions of a virtual colony of bugs and their reactions to people in both the online and offline environments. These bugs essentially �live� on the web server and are akin to pet fish that require humans for their survival. In the context of PoC however, only web users can �feed� the insects (by depositing food with mouse clicks) and only users in the physical space can �kill� them (by stepping on top of a lit LED). Additional behaviours will also be programmed into the project allowing remote users to �collaborate� with each other through non-verbal communication.

These virtual bugs will be modelled after pond skaters (aka water striders) due to their classification as semi-aquatic insects. They neither live on land or in water but rather on the surfaces of water. PoC was inspired by the description of the computer screen as a �window� into another dimension. The screen is both a portal and a barrier; a surface for viewing that should not be penetrated by direct physical contact. Consider how an input device such as a keyboard or mouse is required to mediate (and restrict) our intentions. Likewise, acts of communication are basically manifested through the organization of light (pixels, LEDs) on a surface.

The inherit �virtual-ness� of this project is never forgotten as the goal of Points of Contact is to explore the idea of the surface, of the interface, and the spaces �in-between.�

Pretty Lights