Martin (XPUB)-thesis outline

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Draft Thesis


[...] Open Question(s):

  • What is the agency of a user inside a Web interface compared to a spectator in a museum/gallery (related to part 1)
  • To what extend does the technological, political and architectural context of a physical exhibition space affect the spectator's experience and interpretation of artwork(s)? (related to part 2)
  • How can the physical experience of an exhibition space educate us about the nature, role and influence of Web interfaces online?
  • How can the implementation of Web concepts can give a better understanding of a physical exhibition space?


I. Agencies, contexts and experiences of the spaces of representation


What can users or spectators do, what is their purpose

1.1 The user agency through the Web

1.1.1 Terms, conditions, agreements

Cookies, privacy, legal uses, advertisment, copyrights, etc

1.2 The spectator agency through the architecture

1.2.1 Rules, safety, regulations

Artwork safety, public safety, prohibed items, public speaking, photography, equipments, behavior, circulation, etc. Being gallery/museum visitor implies to agree on terms and conditions that are quiet heavy in comparison to visiting a Web page.


What define our viewing contexts on digital interfaces and in exhibition spaces

2.1 Technological context of the Web

2.1.1 A network of factors / Technological contexts / Point of views

On the Web, the render/display of same Web page is always slighly different from a user’s to another. It depends on the technological and spatial context in which each user in situated. This context is made of many factors, such as the device used, its configuration (addons/plugins/custom settings/luminosity/scale), the IP adress, the browser used, its versions among an almost infinite list of other parameters. All theses factors added together creates a very singular context to which the Web and its contents are forced to adapt.


2.1.2 Elasticity, obsolescence and unpredictability / Responsive technology

In that sense the Web materiality is sort of elastic (see: plasticity), which makes it singularily different from most physical objects or achitectures. Added to that, the display and functionalities of a website are also affected by the constant evolution of the Web itself, with patches, updates, expired and added elements that contribute to the ephemerality and unpredictability of what can be seen.

In order to overcome the impredicatability of rendering online interfaces among the incredible diversity of connected devices, a technology of flexibility has been developped, improved and democratised on the Web.


Gaëlle Calvary, Joëlle Coutaz, David Thevenin Quentin Limbourg, Nathalie Souchon, Laurent Bouillon, Murielle Florins, Jean Vanderdonckt

See more:

  • Lopez, J.F., Szekely, P., Web page adaptation for Universal Access, in Proc. of Conf. on Universal Access in HCI UAHCI’ 2001

(New Orleans, August 5-10, 2001), Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, 2001,

2.2 Technological contexts in the museum/exhibition space

2.2.1 Space and agents of the production of knowledge

Architecture, scale, size, interior design, colors, layout, writing, arrangement, lighting, display, etc

2.2.2 Institutional critique

Questioning and redifining the exhibition spaces and the heritage from the White Cube by the institutional critique practice (?)

II. Reversing the desktop metaphor (related to practice)

The desktop metaphor was invented in the early ages of computers for facilitating hte use and understanding of the digital interfaces, by making mental associations related domains from the physical world. Now democratised, widely used and sometimes replacing our needs to converge in physical spaces, how could we facilitate the understanding of physical exhibition spaces by making connections to the Web.

1.1 Architectural Device

Conceiving the architecture as a technological and political device made of a set of factors and parameters

1.2 Physical Interface

Conceiving the exhibition space as a digital interface, which is meant to influence/guide our circulation and behaviours.

1.3 Programmed physical space

Comparing the programming of an interface with the curation of a exhbibition space. Could an exhibition space be programmed?

1.4 Exhibition User

Conceiving the Spectator as a User of the physical space

1.5 Variable Display

Conceiving the physical space as an elastic/variable and potentially unpredicatable display; in order to diffract the range of viewing contexts offered by the Web.


2.1 The medium paradox

The better it mediates, the more it becomes invisible. How does our attention make abstraction of the frame, the medium, the form.


2.2 Meta-Space

An exhibition, and artwork, or a media that is nested in itself as a subject. How could meta art be a strategy in order to deal with the interface paradox. References to previous practices: TENSE, MEDIA SPACES





  • Stéphanie Moser, 2010. THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS: MUSEUM - Displays and the Creation of Knowledge. 1st ed. Southampton, England
  • Alexander R. Galloway - The Interface Effect 1st ed. Malden, USA: Polity Press.
  • Jonas Lund, 2012. What you see is what you get
  • Shilpa Gupta, 2009 - 2010. Speaking Wall
  • Frederick Kiesler, 1925, City of space