Here & There: Trees and Their Doppelgangers

I spent years trying to find out which tree, out of all the many trees in the world, is the very best tree. This entailed looking at all the characteristics that make a tree the best, such as its beauty, the number of leaves it has, the amount of shade it gives, its flexibility in the wind, and so on.

In many ways I was inspired by other popular contests and investigations into other high-quality categories of things, from human beauty pageants to the Oscars. If we can determine the best candidate in those categories, why not trees?

Once I started looking at trees’ relative bestness, I also become interested in other tree qualities, such as tree dopplegangers. This project, as part of the Best Tree in the World, is an outgrowth of that overall investigation of trees’ testable characteristics.

After exploring tree doppelgangers in William Wilson, I discovered that I was unable to pair up certain trees or doppelgangers, despite my certainty as to their tree or doppelganger status.

This led an interactive project in which I used a billboard in Chicago and a series of 100 posters in southern Illinois to advertise a website, through which the public could vote for which trees they thought went with which doppelgangers.

The site is no longer active, but you can download it from here. That will download a Zip file. Open the Zip file, and you will have all the components of the site. Drag the file “original.html” onto any browser, and that will open a local version of the site that you can interact with.

It has links to images of the billboard and posters, the “answers” page, with the true tree-doppelganger pairs, as determined by the voting public. It contains an extensive statistical breakdown of the results.

To very briefly summarize the results, the voting public did seem to have a fairly strong opinion of which tree went with each tree doppelganger.

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