New Project :: Tangible Interface for Browsing the AIDS Quilt

AIDS-Quilt-Browser-PrototypeSample-Panel-from-AIDS-QuiltThis project will develop an application that enables collaborative browsing of a database of images of panels of The AIDS Memorial Quilt that have been “virtually stitched together.”  The application will be used with Onomy Lab’s Tilty Table, a tangible interactive device that serves as a display surface for large-scaled images.

By tilting the tabletop, users can explore the expansive virtual Quilt.  By twisting the tabletop, users move between levels of view ranging from an extreme wide-angle view of the entire 60,000 panel Quilt, down to a close-up of a single panel.  When a user rests on one image, additional information is revealed: names, dates, geographic location.  The size and form of the device encourages collaborative browsing in public venues.  We offer it as an example of aevocative public interactive.

This project demonstrates the notion of a cultural technology; the built-form of the device augments the cultural meaning of the historical material.  Specific innovations include:  the creation of a (1) tangible interactive surface and (2) an application for collaborative browsing and searching of large spatialized images, (3) the involvement of the users’ body in the interaction with digital material, and (4) the circulation of an archive of historical images to a broader, public audience. The horizon of this project seeks to contribute to our understanding of the way in which mixed-media technologies (digital and physical) can augment practices of cultural remembrance.

We are working in collaboration with the Names Project Foundation — the organization based in Atlanta Georgia that is dedicated to preserving the Quilt and receiving new panels — to make their database of 6000 digitized images of Quilt blocks viewable on this tangible interface.  Each Quilt block is comprised of eight individual Quilt panels; each panel measures 3 ft x 6 ft.  To date there are more than 60,000 individual panels in the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Next year, 2012, will mark the 25th Anniversary of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. We intend to have this application and device ready in time to commemorate that anniversary at the 2012 International AIDS Conference to be held in Washington D.C. in July of next year.

The project is supported by a Digital Start-Up Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and from funds from USC’s Program of Advancing Scholarship in Arts, Humanities and the Social Sciences.

We are looking for volunteers to work on this and related efforts to create a digital presence for the Names Memorial Quilt at the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington.  For more information contact:  Anne Balsamo at annebalsamo(at)gmail(dot)com

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