Scrollbars and Selections Make User Interface Art Scene

Dutch Artist Jan Robert Leegte has an unusual take on the graphical user interface (GUI) conventions that we are all accustomed to seeing on our computer screens: he wants to impose them physically upon the real world.

(Scrollbars as art)

His Scrollbars work first appeared in 2002; he has been exploring the sculptural uses of browser GUIs since 1997. According to the artist, most of us consider the scrollbar to be a virtual object - but in use it triggers reactions such as frustration, which suggests a subconscious acceptance of the inherent 'reality' of these objects.

In looking at this piece, I'm immediately struck at how the virtual world is increasingly imposing itself on our real world. The practice of virtual tagging is a good example.

In late 2003, a product called "Tagandscan" allowed cellphone users to scribble "virtual graffiti" in a street or neighbourhood. The service let users post a message to a mobile phone zone, or "cell". When a user logs onto the TagandScan site using their cellphone, they can opt to be automatically located according to network cell from which they are calling.

Another example is the sort of tagging system devised by The basic idea of their system is to find a real-world object that corresponds to a Wikipedia article (for example, the Brooklyn Bridge). Then, fill out a form on the semapedia site and print out a special machine-readable tag, which you then affix to the real world object. Any person with a properly equipped phone can now scan the tag and instantly receive the Wikipedia article information.

In a previous article (Logitech QuickCam Orbit MP Has Maximum Headroom) I described the manner in which a user of this camera can impose his own view of himself on his own image.

Finally, take a look at Vernor Vinge's new book Rainbows End in which a set of technologies allows people with wearable computer clothing and smart contact lenses to see the world exactly as their computer makes it.

Maybe someday soon, you'll be able to select a portion of the real world for inclusion in a paper or presentation. Jan Robert Leegte thinks so.

('Selection' by Jan Robert Leegte, 2006)

Take a look at Leegte's website via Guerilla-Innovation.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 8/29/2006)

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