le_temps is an ongoing project that gathers and presents crowd-sourced phenology information from online image databases like Flickr. Since early 2008, roughly 40 million images have been uploaded to Flickr every month. This ever-growing digital collection documents a vast range of human experience and observations of the world. With the proliferation of cameras and mobile computation, our contemporary era has become defined by a collective enthusiasm for capturing events and moments of change. Phenology being an area of science also concerned with observing change. It is the study of recurring biological events in the animal and plant world, of the timing of these events and of the biotic and abiotic forces that drive these cycles. Within the scientific community, there is a growing interest in the collection of phenology records to better understand how ecological systems respond to conditions of climate change.
Instigated in early 2012, le_temps is an project that explores digital images from a range of different sources including from Flickr, the Royal Botanic Gardens herbarium and the ClimateWatch database. ClimateWatch is an environmental organisation dedicated to the study of the ecological impacts of climate change. In 2012 they launched an iPhone application that enables people to use their phone to take images of the seasonal behavior of species in their locality and upload them to a collective database. In future iterations of le_temps we are hoping to visualise and present images from this crowd sourced database. If you are interested in contributing to this, please download the ClimateWatch App to upload your images phenological patterns in your local environment.
In this exhibition, we present the first iteration of the le_temps project. This version of the project searches the Flickr database for images tagged with particular species names and location keywords. The software looks at the metadata associated with each image and sorts it according to the date the image was taken. Each row shows images from a particular year. Images are arranged across each row using a frequency distribution algorithm that sorts them into monthly clusters. A camera detects the viewer’s presence, enabling the viewer to interact with the work and explore the content of the images.
The title of this work, le_temps means both ‘the time’ and ‘the weather’ in the French language – a sort of linguistic acknowledgment that our collective understanding of time is inextricably linked to greater planetary conditions. As annual patterns and temporal cycles are revealed or notably absent for different plant species, le_temps explores cause and effect and the relationship between the geographic and the informatic. How are our surroundings and our capacity to observe them changing? And what might be gleaned from our collective digital secretions?