How Do You See the Disappeared?

A Warm Database

December 2004

Supported by Jerome Foundation, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs

“How Do You See the Disappeared? A Warm Database” investigates immigrants who disappear into the complex, bewildering, and often heartless bureaucracy that governs the immigration courts, detention centers, asylum adjudications, and deportation proceedings that separate hundreds of thousands of new Americans each year from their everyday lives, family ties, and points of connection.

The Electronic Literature Lab could not preserve this Flash work with Ruffle or Conifer in July 2021. We plan to pursue other methods in the future.



Flash and Quicktime players, scripting and popups enabled, and speakers or headphones.


The web-based phase of this project has four interrelated branches:

“How Do You See the Disappeared?” is a hypertext sequence which leads the viewer on a search for traces of the disappeared in the documents which surround and enclose them, in order to analyze how the language of the system enables and doubles the disappearances it produces.

“Submit Your Warm Data” attempts to develop a new language to counter this problem by asking new questions and creating a multilingual system for collecting the dreams, desires and disappointments of individual immigrants (with the protection of anonymity for those who fear jeopardizing their status), and reconnecting them to the collective narrative of a community in crisis.

“A Warm Database” is an interface for viewing the responses that have already been collected and re-visualized as warm data in order to serve as examples for the more intensive data collection that will take place after the web launch.

“Who Are the Disappeared?” contextualizes the project within the work being done around detention and deportation by a wide range of activists, advocates and community groups.