2006  //  Participation // Curation

Utopia! was the first major photography exhibition to be curated through crowd sourced online voting.   Utopia! was 2006 iteration of the annual juried photography show at Millard Sheets Gallery during the Los Angeles County Fair.  This annual exhibition of 200 works usually has over 5000 submissions and an annual attendance of over 500,000 people- making it one of the most competitive and most attended juried exhibitions in the nation.

For this year, Utopia! invited the general public to submit works online where the general public could vote on photographic works by choosing the best of two randomly selected images at a time.  The total aggregate of votes ranks the images according to four categories (landmarks, staged, abstract, and representational).  The top winning images were asked to submit their physical photographs for exhibition.

The voting process and exhibition were a participatory experiment, and the final works were displayed with both didactic and narrative information about the images ranking.  All submitted images within a category were displayed digitally on a screen so that attendants and participants could see every work submitted and infer their own conclusions about why some images were selected and speculate on what those selections might mean about photography, community, and online interactions.

Exhibition concept, software design, and exhibition design were all by SRI director Jeff Cain.