[ISEA2011] Paper: Angus Graeme Forbes & George Legrady — Cell Tango: An Evolving Interactive Archive of Cellphone Photography


Cell Tango is an interactive multimedia artwork consisting of a series of visualizations based on a dynamically evolving collection of cellphone photographs contributed instantly by the general public. These images, and the accompanying tags which categorize and describe them, are projected large-scale in the gallery, continuously shifting as new contributions are added. The layout and animation for each of the four visualizations— Cell_Bin, Cell_Clusters, Cell_Burst, and Cell_Finale— is defined by the textual associations between the photos, and additionally shows connections with a set of similar photographs that are retrieved from the popular Flickr photograph-sharing database. A series of sonifications, based on various image-processing techniques, are synchronized with the position and movement of the photographs to enhance the narrative logic of the artwork. Cell Tango engages in a dialogue between the public and the private through the creation of an intermediate shared space. The artwork exists at the intersection of the collective, the prescriptive, and the personal, as defined respectively by the sampling of the database, the aesthetic of the artist, and the individual contribution of the viewer. This paper describes the aesthetic and technical components of the art project, with a particular focus on the software architecture and the use of interactivity and multimedia elements. Note that the artwork itself has also been submitted as an artwork by the authors. This submission is intended to compliment the installation of the project. The paper discusses the various and ongoing process involved in creating the artwork.

  • Angus Graeme Forbes. I am a media arts researcher and practitioner based in Santa Barbara, California, USA, and affiliated with the Media Arts & Technology program at UC Santa Barbara. As a researcher in various aspects of visualization I gather inspiration from different places. I am particularly inspired by the self-organization of the natural world: the rule that governs how the trunk of a tree branches off into limbs; the turbulent system underlying a stream before in collapses into a series of tight whirlpools; the algorithm that describes how insects collaboratively forage for scarce resources. Much of my artistic work aims to combine technology with these types of processes. In particular I am interested in creating spaces where multiple people can simultaneously use the installation to interact and explore in new expressive ways. Visualization techniques are often categorized into art or engineering roles based upon their perceived use. If it fulfills a clearly defined task then it can be framed as a potential scientific or information visualization contribution. However, many visualization techniques first arise as ideas without a particular problem to solve. It is the role of the artist to explore possibilities rigorously with the freedom of not having a specific goal in mind. In the case of my artwork, I focus on issues of design, experience,   aesthetics, and complexity and try to frame these concerns so that it generates new interactive possibilities.  vimeo.com/angusforbes
  • George Legrady, Media Arts & Technology PhD program, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA. georgelegrady.com   vislab.mat.ucsb.edu mat.ucsb.edu/~g.legrady/glWeb/Projects/spl/spl.html   mascontext.com/issues/7-information-fall-10/making-visible-the-invisible  Video:  Seattle Public Library

Full text (PDF) p. 821-826