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Distributed Legible City

1998 Karlsruhe, Germany

Software: Gideon May, Adrian West

This version of Legible City (1989) is in most ways identical to the original work, but introduces new multi-user functionality that to a large extent becomes its predominant feature. In Distributed Legible City, two or more bicyclists, physically situated at remote locations, are networked together to be simultaneously present in its virtual environment. These bicyclists can find each other represented as avatars within the virtual space, and when they approach one another they can verbally communicate via headphones and microphones. The bicycles themselves are modified trainers, with CRT screens mounted in front.

While Distributed Legible City shows the same architectonic arrangement of letters and words as the original Legible City, these texts are no longer the sole locus of the user's experience. Instead they become the context (both in terms of scenery and content) for the meetings and resulting conversations between the bicyclists who inhabit this virtual world. Thereby users generate a rich new space of conjoined spoken and readable texts, and the artwork shifts from being merely an interactive visual experience, becoming the locus for social exchange between its visitors.

Distributed Legible City construes an aesthetic framework for the social interaction and interface paradigms of networked, shared virtual environments. In this way it prefigures the conceptual and technological developments that led to online virtual worlds like Second Life (2003) and other current social media constructs.

Exhibition Record

1998/11/1 - 12/6:  surroGate 1, ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany

1998/11/30 - 12/2:  IST98, Austria Center Vienna, Vienna, Austria

1999:  Neue Galerie, Graz, Austria

1999/2/25 - 2/26:  European 5th Framework Conference, Messe Essen, Essen, Germany

1999/9/23 - 2000/2/27:  ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany

1999/9/26 - 10/24:  net_condition, AVL Art Gate, Graz, Austria