[CHWP Titles]

Don Sinclair, "Database, place and the new media art interface"

[CHC 2004]


When my partner calls me on my cell phone, I am often riding my bike and the question she first asks is: where are you? The possible answers to this question illustrate the many ways that place can be constructed. The most obvious answer might be that I am riding along street x, or at intersection y. However, she might be calling when I am riding into a headwind, during a snowstorm, when the temperature is –10, when I am going over a log on an off-road trail or when I am riding in the midst of 30-40 other bikes at fairly high speeds. Now, of course, I would probably not be answering my phone when in these situations. A more complete, meaning rich answer to the question: Where are you? might not even include the actual location but could include details about the context. An additional response might not even specify where I am but where I am going. I am going to York, I am going downtown, or simply I am on my bike.

I started gathering data for oh, those everyday spaces, in January 2002 and stopped in March 2003. During that period, I gathered about 30,000 images, 80,000 GPS (Global Positioning System) locations and hourly weather data from 3 local stations. In their raw form, the images alone were 10 gigabytes. Of course, I needed a way to store, manipulate and access this data in very flexible ways. So I chose an open-source web-based database, MySQL and PHP. But the database is not just an innocent conduit for storing data, it is a computer and cultural form that encompasses implicit ways of structuring and conceptualizing data and hence, influences our ideas of what can be achieved with databases.

one record image
zone1: temperture:
zone2: condition:
easting: pressure:
northing: visibility:
humidity: dewpoint:
wind direction: wind speed:
wind gust:
speed: gpspointdiff:
direction: avgdirection: