a layered video manuscript of social interaction
Ben Piper, Stefan Agamanolis
A palimpsest is a manuscript consisting of a later writing
superimposed upon an original writing. This word has been borrowed
for the title of this project that aims to superimpose layers of
recorded social interaction and present them as a single image.
In contrast to conferencing tools and portals that enable chance
encounters between distant locations, the Palimpsest facilitates
chance encounters between different points in time.
The Palimpsest installation consists of a rear-projection screen and
camera aimed across an interaction area, which could be a hallway or
passage inside a building, or a special area dedicated to the
installation. A computer digitizes camera images and controls the
projected video display. Images of passers-by or participants
entering the interaction area are extracted from the background using
an in-house segmentation algorithm. These extracted images are then
layered into a video loop that repeats itself every several seconds.
Because the video is looped, if a passer-by lingers in the space, she
will see a delayed copy of herself entering the space from several
seconds ago, and even more layers if she remains longer, together with
the layers generated by other passers-by from earlier points in time.
These layers accrue on the screen over several minutes, hours, even
days, creating a unique visual that collapses time and compresses the
recent social goings-on of the given space.
Palimpsest might be thought of as capturing and conveying the
intersections of mobile humans with a particular point in space over
an extended period of time. Increasing the persistence of these
intersections raises awareness of the social history of a place and
allows the viewer to witness the human crowd that has passed through a
seemingly quiet and empty space. Even if totally alone, a passer-by
is able to "transcend time" and become a part of this community, and
to interact with its members (including oneself!).
The Palimpsest architecture also offers new artistic possibilities,
particularly with improvisational theater. Future directions on this
thread include control over the length and appearance of each video
layer and the addition of audio to the system.
Publications and Links
An early Palimpsest demo
movie made by Ben Piper.
Another Palimpsest demo
Palimpsest was exhibited at the Darklight Film
Festival, Dublin, 20 - 22 September 2002.
Palimpsest was exhibited at Collision
3 at the MIT Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, 31 May - 2
June 2002. Ben produced a video about this show.
Palimpsest is discussed in:
- Stefan Agamanolis, Designing Displays for Human
Connectedness (book chapter), in Kenton O'Hara, Mark Perry,
Elizabeth Churchill, and Daniel Russell (eds), Public and Situated
Displays: Social and interactional aspects of shared display
technologies, Kluwer, 2003. (PDF)