by andy deck about


Glyphiti is an image composed of many smaller "glyphs" that can be edited easily. The qualities of the image are co-determined. As author, I have established certain characteristics. These include the size and available colors, which are black and white. But the state of every pixel can be changed by the visiting artist.

Glyphiti requires Java. Unlike most collaborative image software available on the Internet, it will function through most corporate firewalls. This is because it updates the changing image using standard Web server requests. This penetration of the firewall is a metaphor for graffiti, which also appropriates privatized space for visual play.

The first thing you'll encounter is a page with an image like this: The image is live. Changes made to it are sent to all the people who are currently visiting Glyphiti. The marks each person makes are recorded. The various states of the evolving image are combined and can be seen as a time-lapse image stream.

It should be noted that glyph imagery is nothing new. Mayans and Egyptians used glyphs, and the word 'glyph' comes from (ancient?) Greek ('carving'). More recently, there is the work of Kenneth Knowlton, who in the 1960's used computers at Bell Labs to create images composed of glyphs. I first encountered one of Knowlton's pictures -- which seemed to combine Chuck Close and the teletype -- at the School of Visual Arts in the early 1990s.

The present project does, however, shift the focus of authorship. It is an image-making system that can be altered from all over the Internet. It's not clear who owns the collaborative image. For my part, I encourage you to use it any way you see fit. I look forward to seeing what images develop.

Finally, if you don't like the options given to you, please revise the source code. Copy it. Steal it. Share it. Print it. Pretend it's yours. I don't care.