Future Home of the Speculative Scale Explorer

 

A multi-axis, multi-disciplinary tool to explore scale-encoded image sets ("speculative ecosystems")


INTRODUCTION

The Speculative Scale Explorer is an online platform for the aggregation of scale-encoded image sets that document ecosystems either real or imagined.  Users will be able to upload a set of interrelated images that represent either a real set of entities, a representation of a work of literature, art, or media, or a world of their own invention.  The online platform will then allow such ecosystems to be viewed contiguously (as a telescoping set of scales), as a network of interrelated scales, or as a scalar slice across many different image sets.  The platform thus allows many cultural objects to be encoded, viewed, and analyzed from the standpoint of scale.  Perhaps most radically, it also utilizes scale as the connective tissue to analyze relationships, entities and regions across multiple knowledge domains, from art to science, from the past to the future, from the actual to the virtual. 

This project is inspired by my research, which has partially focused upon a number of mid- to late-twentieth century media projects that divide the universe into discrete scales and present them as a continuous, linear “cosmic zoom.” This project will include building an online, collaborative platform for the exploration of scale as a series of scale-tagged image sets, or “speculative ecosystems.” The idea is to create a platform that allows users to speculatively conjoin scales by producing a series of images (each at its own scale) that are interconnected in some way, and then to allow other users to navigate within and between these sets, opening up multiple axes of scalar exploration and analysis. Such image sets could be photorealistic (photographs, micrographs, etc.) abstract (diagrams), or impressionistic (paintings, drawings, etc.). Similarly, the subject matter could be scientific (Hubble Space Telescope images, weather maps, scanning electron micrographs, etc.), loco-exploratory (produced to document a particular site or region), purely imaginative (representations of invented worlds) or interpretative-exploratory (representations of the scales of a film or novel) New Zealand's ecology could be juxtaposed with the speculative ecology of Dune, Middlemarch, or Avatar, and the urban ecology of Abu Dhabi, for example. In an academic setting, student groups will be able to utilize this platform to explore anything within the realm of scholarship amenable to scalar analysis. In addition to actual ecosystems at different scales, individual works of media or literature could be explored according to their scalar dynamics. Some examples:


Ultimately, exploring these along multiple scalar axes that span knowledge domains will not only reveal hitherto unseen connections and dynamics within our expanded milieu, but will also begin to break down traditional disciplinary barriers that have hindered a trans-disciplinary form of ecological thought.


FOUR STAGES OF THE PROJECT

  1. Powers of Ten images juxtaposed (a new way to view scale-mediating works as speculative ecosystems).

  2. Curated and user-submitted versions of speculative ecosystems.

  3. Randomly generated, recombinatory speculative ecosystems (from image databases).

  4. Automatically scaped images from online sources (NASA, observatories, medical institutions, Flickr? Instagram? Facebook?)


BACKEND


USER INTERFACE


Divided into two modes: Ecosystem and Scale Comparison. Ecosystem modes displays a set of images (a speculative ecosystem), and allows the user to move laterally to other speculative ecosystems. Scale Comparison mode displays a lateral group of (randomly selected) images, all at the same scale.

The user can switch between the two modes at any time by clicking an icon at the upper-right corner, which remains in the same position always (displaying the current mode).

When switching from Scale Comparison mode to Ecosystem mode, the interface displays the ecosystem of which the currently viewed image is a part. When switching into Scale Comparison mode, the currently selected scale (if user is currently in Browser mode) is displayed in Browser view. If the user is in Frame or Network view, then the interface switches to Scale Comparison mode, Frame view, and one of the images from the current ecosystem is randomly selected to populate the frames, along with a host of other images of the same scale from different ecosystems (randomly selected from the full database).

ECOSYSTEM MODE

This mode has three views: Browser, Frame, and Network.

Browser view examines a single scalar image at a time, along with links to any other connected scales within the same ecosystem.  These appear as thumbnails below the currently selected scale, and can be navigated to with a single click.  Contextually appearing arrows to the right and left of the main image will change the current main image to another from the current ecosystem: RIGHT ARROW = one scale larger (consecutively), LEFT ARROW = one scale smaller.

Browser View Mockup


Frame view displays a number of images from the current ecosystem.  The central area of the page is devoted to a dynamically changeable number of frames, each of which contains a reduced-size image at the same (current) scale. Selectable frame options:

4 (2 x 2 grid)
8 (2 rows of 4)
15 (3 rows of 5)
24 (4 rows of 6)

If switching from Browser view (in either Ecosystem or Scale Comparison mode), then the currently displayed image will be loaded into into one of the frames, approximately central on the screen.

Network view displays every image (in thumbnail form) from the current ecosystem, in a network drawn from the “connections” field in the metadata. Clicking on any individual node (thumbnail) switches to Browser view and loads that image.  This allows for an intuitive exploration of a speculative ecosystem as a series of scalar interconnections rather than as a linear (or concentric) range of scales.


SCALE COMPARISON MODE

Two different “views” are possible in this mode: Frame and Browser.

Browser view displays one single image at a time, in the center of the page, as in Ecosystem mode.  However, this image is positioned at the center of two axes, vertical and horizontal.  Small thumbnails of other images at the same scale appear to the left and right of the main image. The user can advance to them by clicking on them directly, or on contextually appearing arrows to the right or left of the main image. In addition, thumbnails also appear above and below the main image. These are images within the same ecosystem as the current image, but at different scales.


SSV-scale1.png

Frame view: In this view, which is interfacially identical to Frame view in Ecosystem mode, the central area of the page is devoted to a dynamically changeable number of frames, each of which contains a reduced-size image at the same (current) scale, but from completely different image sets (ecosystems).  This view thus displays a collage of images at the same scale, randomly drawn from the image sets in the system’s database.  Selectable frame options:

4 (2 x 2 grid)
8 (2 rows of 4)
15 (3 rows of 5)
24 (4 rows of 6)

In this view, clicking on any image switches to Browser view and opens that image.