Metropath(ologies) is an immersive installation about living
in a world overflowing with information and under non-stop
surveillance. Visitors to the exhibit are not simply audience -
their voices, faces, and data about them are incorporated part of the
evolving artwork. The tone of the installation shifts from
celebratory to sinister, deliberately ambiguous about the desirability of communicative
abundance and person/data symbiosis.
Metropath(ologies) was created by Judith Donath, Yannick
Assogba, Alex Dragulescu, and Aaron Zinman (the Sociable Media
The installation evokes a metaphorical city of
information. Visitors walk among 36 columns onto which text and
images are projected, accompanied by an evolving soundtrack of
city sounds and spoken data. Over the course of 9 minutes, the
audio and projections move through states that range from abstract
to literal, from serene to foreboding. Set among the columns are 3
stations that further explore the relationship between the
datascape and its inhabitants.
The sound and images include live and recorded material ranging
from global news reports to personal updates and private
information. Visitors to the exhibit also find themselves
incorporated into the it: their images are captured by
surveillance cameras and then displayed on the columns and in the
growing population of Cityscape figures, their names are entered
into a database which mines the web for stories about them, their
overheard voices are recorded and played back by the soundtrack,
and as they walk among the columns they become a surface onto
which this imagery is projected. Both congenial and sinister,
Metropath(ologies) is a participatory space in which the visitors
-- their names, faces, voices and data -- are truly a part.
The Metropath(ologies) progression
Over the course of 9 1/2 minutes, the audio and projections cycle
through a 4-part sequence. The imagery for each movement is
computer-generated and evolves as the underlying newsfeeds and
databases change. The sound mixes music and samples with live
synthesized speech generated from current news stories and
personal data about the visitors.
Surveilling the audience
The installation has several ways of observing the
visitors and incorporating them into the exhibit:
1. Visual surveillance: An unobtrusive camera in the installation photographs visitors.
When people cross the area of the camera's focus an ultrasonic
range-finder detects them and triggers the camera to take an
image. Computer vision technology is used to separate the
visitors' silhouettes from the background. The resulting images
become part of the visuals of both the projections and the
2. Audio surveillance: The sound of people talking in the installation is recorded
during the 30 seconds of silence (4th movement) in the
audio. This is incorporated into the soundscape.
3. Data surveillance: Visitors' names are collected when they enter them to have
their data portrait made by the Personas station. The
system uses this data to look up information about the
visitors and incorporates their home address,
etc. into the soundscape.