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philippechollet.net / HyperTerritory - Frictions of Distance

Since the time when humans were stalking animals in the bush till Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon, footprints have been the proof of physical presence. It is not true no more.

Indeed, the installation HyperTerritory - Frictions of Distance is allowing people in the UK and Cambodia to simultaneously walk in each other's footsteps : while Londoners literally leave their footprints in Phnom Penh live, Phnom Penhners literally leave theirs in London, live as well.

Thus, the work aims at questioning how Information and Communications Technology is reshaping geography and our relation to space.


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/ Steckches /



/ Images /



/ Friction of Distance /

In Geography, interaction (I) between two cities is an inverse function of distance (D) amended by the population of these cities (P).

We therefore have this formula :

I = f (P1, P2, 1/D)

The actual formula being :

I = k [ (P1 x P2) / D^ß]

k is a constant to scale predictions up and down.
ß is the Friction of Distance, a power to adjust the effect of distance.

It is interesting to see that if we set ß to 2, we get a very similar formula to the physicist Newton's gravity, mass, distance and force equation.

If ß is big this expresses how much distance affects interaction (because of effort, energy, cost, time... that are required), but if ß is null then (D^ß]) is equal to 1. The distance has no effect on interaction... At first, this does not seem possible, but could it be?


/ Space /

The information age has put space at the heart of new debates. While some talk about “The End of Geography” (O’Brien, economist, futurist and author) or the “The Death of Distance" (Cairncross, economist, journalist and academic), others argue that communication technologies do actually consider space whilst redefining our relations to it (Bidou, sociologist), or explain that space is now made of various layers (Martin Jourdenais and Pierre Desrochers, sociologist): the Traditional, the Cyberspace (Gibson, cyberpunk writer) and the Space of Flows (Castells, sociologist).

The installation can be considered as a metaphor of a Space of Flow. Indeed, Castells explains that it links up distant locales around shared functions and meanings on the basis of electronic circuits and fast transportation corridors, while isolating and subduing the logic of experience embodied in the Space of Places (The Space of Places being the “Traditional Space”).He also describes it as enabling synchronistic and real-time interaction without physical proximity, a none passive space as it evolves with time. This space implies a new power model, it also generates new expression of identity (via avatars).


/ HyperReality - HyperTerritory /

About Hyperreality, Baudrillard (cultural theorist and sociologist) describes it as simulation of a real without real origin. Borrowing from Carroll the example of a society whose cartographers create a map so detailed that it covers the very things it was designed to represent, and pushing the idea further, he argues that the territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it, but that it is actually the map that precedes the territory. "HyperTerritory - Frictions of distance's" installations are (the none exclusive...) pieces of an Hyperreal territory under construction.


/ U-cities (pervasive cities) /

For Ubiquitous cities. Songdo, the $25 billions investment project in South Korea is one of them. But actually, the presence and extensive integration of mobile phone, RFID tags, QR codes, Bluetooth, NFC... has the potential to transform any city into a ubiquitous city. In the U-city, all information systems are linked, and virtually everything is linked to an information system. For instance, if you through a can in a recycling bin, your bank account is automatically credited, thus rewarding your positive behavior towards the environment, surely it is known that the can is yours, for you have been identified throwing it away. Easy, the chip you are wearing (could be your phone or an implant) communicates with the chip on the bins, the chip on the can and your bank account. Marzloff (sociologist) sees people in cities moving around inside a personal bubble of communication.

Effective and convenient, but in terms of privacy, the pervasive city could easily be invasive like Oceania described by Orwell (SF writer) in his novel 1984... In HyperTerritory - Friction of Distance, you leave your footprint, in the U-cities you spend your time leaving your prints, what if...


/ Team /

The project's origin is based on the concept of an HyperTerritory characterized by ubiquitous footprints. It was proposed by Philippe Chollet. Initial Research and Interaction Design was then done in collaboration with Che-Guevara John. It also involved Chris Lane and Gauthaman Ravindran in the production phase. Che-Guevara John did the visuals and the processing programming whilst Gauthaman Ravindran did the database/MySql programming.

Thanks for their help to Angelo Russell, Benjamin Wullenweber, Ronan Durand, Tom Flint, Interface-z.


/ Exhibitions /

The installations were exhibited simultaneously at Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts in London / UK) and at the CCF (French Cultural Centre in Phnom Penh / Cambodia) from March 11 to April 25 2009.



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