The Work

"ON/OFF the light!"

Today, at least in most of the industrialized world, we take for granted working electricity. Turn the switch, the light comes on. Let there be light.

Masaki Fujihata's "Light on the Net" project restores some of the magic to this quotidian effort by allowing the user-visitor to turn on or off any of a bank of 49 20W lights in the lobby of Gifu Softopia Center west of Tokyo, Japan.

Ken Goldberg writes:

Telepresence presents sense-data that (1) claims to correspond to a remote physical reality and (2) allows the remote user to perform a physical action and see the results. The WWW has the potential to bring telepresence out of the laboratory.
With "Light On the Net," the feedback is immediate. Click on the light, and a few moments later the screen redraws and it is now off or on. To assuage feelings of incredulity (how fast does light travel anyway?), at the bottom of the page are the IP addresses of the last 10 actions (G9 off). Yup, that was me. Of course, a simple cgi or java program could be mimicking this action, even with the different people who walk into and out of the screen each time. I think I finally became convinced of the authenticity of my ability to reach out and turn a switch on a light several thousand miles away, when I logged onto the site one afternoon from Minneapolis. The screen where the lobby had been was completely black, except for the lights. It must be down. Or maybe they ran out of fake backgrounds. Then it dawned on me that it was 4 in the morning in Japan, and the lobby was indeed dark. Except for the bank of 49 20W lights. Imagine what that must look like to the security guard doing her rounds, one light or another occasionally illuminating or going dark at the whim of who knows where.


I was drawn to Masaki Fujihata's "Light on the Net" for reasons that were not entirely clear. Perhaps it was because this light sculpture, controlled by viewers who change its configuration while viewing through a webcam, was casting a slowly moving shadow across the floor of a downtown Tokyo office building. A poetic experience in telepresence.

Ken Goldberg
Memento Mori: An Interface to the Earth