REF is an investigation into the erosion of the physical reference area of the library, and the fundamental shift taking place in the way we ask and answer questions.
Reference sources evolved over hundreds of years to answer specific types of questions that have emerged over time as we have sought to engage with information. Atlases, chronologies, encyclopedias, directories, and other, related reference types each satisfied a particular method of seeking information. Where? When? Who was responsible? What else was happening during this time? How was this accomplished? We have moved away from the use of these resources toward the use of keyword searches. As a result, we are able to access information with great speed, but are losing the aspect of translation that enabled us to seek nuanced answers to carefully posed questions.
Shift-lab members worked together to produce a complete reference section. 15 components, each inspired by a traditional reference type, are housed together in a custom flip top document box. As an organizing principle for the project, artists selected a set of dates related to the shift away from the use of physical reference texts toward our reliance on algorithmic relevance. References to these dates and events can be found in each component, alongside other themes related to mapping, information, and documentation.