Submission to Rhizome's Track 1: alt.interface

Project Description:     pick an alt.interface to Rhizome's ArtBase

The proposed alt.interface (pick) will allow users to select (similar or dissimilar) ArtBase projects using only visual clues. This is made possible by transforming the textual information of each project into a visual representation.
The transformation will be done in two steps.

First, the project information (type, genre, technology, keywords) will be mapped into vectors with numeric values.

Second, the vectors will be mapped into a visual form, using all values as parameters. That means each project will be represented by a generated "icon" which can be drawn as a function of the described vector.

The system will allow several modes that differ by the type of icon used. My proposal includes two types "Chernoff Faces" and "Trees" but one can envision many more. The web page would present the default type and allow to switch to other modes.

The proposed interface will allow users to select projects similar to an already known one by looking for similar icons (faces or trees).
Chernoff Faces1
chernoff faces
1 Chernoff faces are simplified faces that can be used to graphically display multivariate data. They draw upon our ability to recognize small differences in facial characteristics. Each of several variables is mapped to one facial characteristic. The method was presented in 1973 by Herman Chernoff in the Journal of the American Statistical Association: The Use of Faces to Represent Points in k-Dimensional Space Graphically. I used the technique in a statistics thesis myself to investigate grading of college students. The above illustrations are from John Wiseman's program (link below).

2 I have been working with trees for many years, but I am always amazed how small differences in the initial parameters are magnified in the resulting drawings. For this reason I think (recursive) line drawings of trees are a good choice to illustrate vector data visually. The above illustrations where generated by my own tree-java-applet.


The pick alt.interface will work as a web page integrated into the Rhizome environment. (Very much like Spiral and Starrynight without a need to download additional files). The application will be split into two parts a) program run periodically on the server and b) the actual web page.

a) Transformation from text to numeric vectors: (Server Side)
The nature of the transformation is not very critical, but it must be done consistently. That means projects with similar textual entries should result in similar vectors and for that reason similar icon representation. Each vector would have the same number of numeric elements (6-12) represented by integers. The more difficult part will be to find a mapping that shows enough diversity between the projects. I envision running some simulations as preparation to find a "good" mapping.

The transformation can be done with a program that is only run once a day or week depending on the update frequency of the ArtBase database. As a result, each access to the web page will be more efficient having only to map the prepared vectors into icons. A Perl program accessing the database for project data will generate the vectors and will store them in a flat file or a single database table. A typical vector will look something like (3,5,1,9,0,7,8,5,1) and possible have project information attached that can be used for popup/window information. This output is then used by the drawing program in step b).

b) Mapping vectors into icons on web page: (Client Side)
This process will be performed online by a Java applet for each user. The 500+ entries of the ArtBase could be presented as a webpage with 5-10 icons across the page resulting in 50 to 100 rows what seems reasonable with the icons being of similar size as the examples above or slighly smaller. The presentation may require a "Zoom in/out" function that would allow to fit more icons on a page
Each Icon will be "selectable" and link to a popup text/or window, showing project information and an optional link to the actual project.

Project Construction:

I would find it very interesting to build the proposed interface myself with some possible Rhizome support for the database access. The time frame and budget look reasonable.

Curriculum Vitae: 

I live and work in New York City.

- Born on a small farm in a small village in Switzerland
- University of Bern, Chemistry, Physics, Math, MS in Statistics
- Joined IBM (experimenting with random numbers already in 1970)
- Founded a group to organizing photography exhibitions in Switzerland
- Moved to New York in 1979 attended International Center of Photography
- Graduate studies at Columbia University, AI, Neurobiology, Anthropology
- Distributed early version of ARTificialART on bulletin boards
- NY Institute of Technology, MS in Computer Science and Computer Graphics
- Independent consultant supporting diverse clients with web applications
- Web artist maintaining ARTificial ART a web site investigating "randomness"
Supporting Links

ARTificialART   my art site, listed on ArtBase
Please look at brush (the newest addition) and kyoto with trees relating to this proposal
ARTwareSoftware   web page describing my professional/technical background
John Wiseman's web page examples of chernoff faces used as illustrations in this proposal

Copyright 2002 by Kurt Baumann, New York