ShiftSpace – Here comes the metaweb

September 2, 2006

Regine at WMMNA just posted a great summary of Dan Phiffer and Mushon Zer-Aviv’s ShiftSpace presentation at Ars Electronica:

What is Shiftspace?

If you google “falun gong” on google.com you’ll get a different result than on google.cn because Falun Dafa is censored in China. ShiftSpace adds a note on the Chinese google results that says “Please note that these results have been censored. The un-censored top results should be falundafa.org.”

The artists then showed how they annotated the ars electronica website, hacking its motif. Another example showed a banner on myspace that said that it was Ruppert Murdoch’s space (he bought Myspace), so is it still “your” space?

How does ShiftSpace work?

You browse the net as usual and when a thingy note pops up, you’re informed that the website has ShiftSpace annotations on it. You can filter the notes. For example, decide to see only the notes written by your friends; you can notify ShiftSpace when a note is in fact Spam. The developers also got inspired by the digg system and ShiftSpace allows tho shift up or down a note, according to its interest. (WMMNA)

ShiftSpace’s own website has an equally evocative description of the technology, which promises to add a tangible third dimension to the experience of web browsing:

ShiftSpace is an open source platform that seeks to expand the creative possibilities currently provided through the web. ShiftSpace provides new tools for artists, designers, architects, activists, developers, students, researchers, and hobbyists to create new online contexts built on top of the web.

The web is often described using spatial metaphors; from “home page” to “information architecture”, it seems natural to explain the virtual with physical terminology. One illuminating metaphor is to regard the web we know today as an extensive hypertext subway system. New stations (webpages), and the local subway lines that interconnect them (hyperlinks), are being built continuously, causing the system to grow exponentially. While the underground landscape grows increasingly crowded, each station is constrained by rigid boundaries and offers a limited number of choices for traveling to new locations.

I believe the web should be extended to encourage information mobility. I believe there is room for new information neighborhoods to be built above the web’s subway system. I believe we should start building these neighborhoods above-ground. (ShiftSpace)

…and hey, they must be cool because they use the same WordPress template as I do! (UPDATE: This is no longer true.)

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