Aluminium "Selfie Wall" Puts Data in Focus

An architectural firm in Texas with an eye toward public art created an aluminium wall with a serious purpose.
31 January, 2017
The Selfie Wall, right on the border between Mexico and the United States, reflects AGENCY Architecture's commitment to urbanism and issue advocacy.
The wall, installed in a public park, invited visitors to take and post their selfie images as part of an experiment to raise awareness about data and privacy by looking at how much information you share when you post a public image.

"Thanks to metadata, a picture may really be worth a thousand words," the AGENCY team explains. They are used by third party data companies, and there is data embedded within the photo file, the social network post protocols, the mobile device settings, and more that contributes to privacy questions.
The "Selfie Wall" team built the installation from 162 custom-fabricated units, CNC-milled from composite aluminum panel, and folded to shape different apertures to refract, scatter, and collect light in ways that serve as a visual reminder of the complexity of data and the digital ecosystem.
The shape of the aluminium modules transitions from structural cross frames to a more open umbrella shape, providing consistent structural rigidity to the wall surface while providing a range of lighting options.
A grid of LED lights is inset to provide zones of different color temperatures at night. A range of warm color temperatures, flattering to skin tones lines the inner surface of the space, while a range of cool whites provides a more accurate color rendering on the outer surface.

"These mass-customized variations evoke, replicate, and evolve lighting solutions across a variety of industries, simultaneously signaling 'barn doors' on stage lighting, photo umbrellas used in portrait photography and film, and vanity fixtures," the company explains.
But not all selfies need the intentional photo-industry treatment, and were taken in daylight too – including during activities like yoga. Anyone who stopped by the art installation was welcome to choose the conditions and "Selfie Wall" setting that best expressed the look and feel of an image to capture.

AGENCY is following up the installation, analyzing metadata from the selfies uploaded to Twitter and Instagram that have an event-specific hashtag.

Yet once the installation event was complete, the AGENCY architectural team's work began anew. The project included instructions with a specific hashtag to upload the selfies to Twitter and Instagram, and the firm is analyzing that data to come to a better understanding of how much information is shared.
"Through an extended online and on-site digital presence, the installation draws attention to the potentials and pitfalls of the vast range of metadata extracted from a still-burgeoning global selfie culture," the company explains.
The project builds on previous work that AGENCY completed in Miami, where they participated in an invited competition to design new interfaces specifically for self-photography spaces in public places.

Ultimately, AGENCY "Selfie Wall" research is meant to help people learn more about how metadata works and how they may wish to protect themselves. For example, dating services invite you to upload an image of yourself, but that image may include easily understood clues about time and location.

The "Selfie Wall" project encourages awareness about data privacy, and simple solutions that can help protect people from sharing more than they ever intended in a fun and spontaneous moment.
Banner image: Agency Architecture