You are Here: an interactive map of the Earth and Sky

You are Here is an interactive map of the universe, as seen from the user's current location in space and time. The user holds a flat-panel screen which behaves like a magic window, allowing them to see continents, rivers, stars, constellations, and planets that are invisible to the naked eye. Pointed upward, the screen shows the stars during the day which are otherwise hidden by the clouds or by the atmosphere's glow. Pointed downward, it shows the continents and oceans on the far side of the earth, and the sky beyond.

view northward in San Francisco
Looking north over Eureka Valley in San Francisco. In the foreground, Corona Heights and Buena Vista Park are in the upper left, and the intersection of Castro and Market streets is visible in yellow near the center of the picture. Behind that, the north pole can be seen, and the outline of Greenland is recognizable below the horizon on the right. Directly behind the north pole is the constellation Gemini. In the lower left the sun is visible in the constellation Cancer.
drawing: Tara Packard

We usually orient ourselves to our immediate surroundings - the horizon, nearby streets and buildings. Intellectually we know that our relatively flat local world is part of a much larger sphere, but few of us think about the stars under our feet, or can point in the direction of the sun at night.

The physical act of moving around a window into the greater world makes your spatial relationship to the globe profoundly more tangible. The experience of being oriented to a larger context creates an unforgettable sense of wonder.

This video shows a tour of the universe as seen through the screen. This footage was recorded to video from the screen while in use, so there is some wobble and video noise:

A Tour of the Sky with You are Here

The project has been exhibited at a variety of places and times, but the most ambitious presentation was an installation at Burningman 2004, an arts festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.

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