Janus Shadow Browser

Stephen Wilson, 1993-6

Art Research carried out as part of xerox PARC's PAIR Artist-in-Reseidence program
(Research conducted in collaboration with Jock MacKinlay and Polle Zelleweger, PARC researchers)

[parc portrait of a search]
Early prototype of portrait of a search (graphical representation of pages visited and missed).

The Shadow browser installation creates a unique kind of Web browser that explores the subtext of World Wide Web navigation experiences. It creates a Web interface that continually confronts the user with material from choices not taken as they move through the Web. The browser invites the user to think about their choice making process and nature of the choices offered on the Web. It also contextualizes these Web choices by provoking users to think about decisions made in everyday life and choices missed.

Description of Shadow Browser:    The Shadow Browser runs in the background as the user employs a browser to explore Web sites. It provides the resources requested at the same time that it dynamically captures text, image and sound of the urls that the person has missed at each node in their choices. These materials are presented in the background of the live Web interface. The user is continually provided a kind of conscience that shows what is not being chosen. Digitized voices sing and speak material from the missed options.

Periodically, the Shadow browser asks the current viewer to fill out a spontaneously appearing Web form that asks for a description of life decisions which could have been done differently. These descriptions are automatically sent to a Web server located in San Francisco and become part of the information available to anyone in the world using a version of the Shadow browser. Thus, even though these browsers each seem independent pieces of software, they are actually linked to all other versions being used anywhere in the world.

The Shadow Browser focuses metaphorically on people's speculations about what would life had been like if they had made other choices. It contextualizes Web choices in the larger array of decisions made in life. It explores the concept of choice in the postmodern era which questions the idea of choice with so many influences and narratives shaping individual lives.

** This project was carried on as part of Xerox PARC's PAIR artist-in-residence program.  Artists were invited to work with researchers in open ended mutually determined research activities.  Results were not limited necessarily to specific projects but included also more subtle mutual influences of each on the research of the others.  The Shadow Browser is still a work in progress, still in the process of modification as the Web rapidly evolves.  Watch for the yet untitled book describing the PAIR program.More information about PARC and PAIR.

- This page created by Stephen Wilson, Professor Conceptual Design, SFSU (http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~swilson)
- More information about the Conceptual Design program is available at (http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~infoarts)
- The url of this page is (http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~swilson/art/parc/parc.html.