A Rom with a view: When mounting a photography exhibition, it is customary to hang pictures on walls. No longer. Jane Richards looks to the future

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So this is the sign of things to come: an entire photography exhibition on a computer. Two Apple Macs sit in a gallery space and you queue up to sit down and view a whole exhibition stored on a CD-Rom.

In From Silver to Silicon, simultaneously showing in Bristol and Southend, photographers, artists and designers have come together to produce a programme that examines the effect of digital technology on photographic conventions. The exhibition presents enthusiasts with the opportunity to experience interactive technology first- hand - and to consider the impact of electronic manipulation on the way we think about and use photography.

A CD-Rom is like any other CD, only it contains huge quantities of data, applications, images and multi-media materials. Like a music CD, information is stored in microscopic 'pits' in the reflective surface of the disc. These are read by a laser beam in the CD drive and converted (in the case of CD-Rom) into computer information.

Launched in 1985, the CD- Rom looks like a conventional CD but holds more than 600 megabytes of data - the equivalent of l,500 high-density floppy discs, 250,000 pages of text, thousands of images or more than 20 hours of speech. Many home computer games are now on CD-Rom, and Kodak has released a photo CD which allows users to put up to 100 snapshots on a CD and watch them on television. And consider this for space and time-saving technology: an interactive CD encyclopaedia has been developed which can hold all the volumes normally found in paper form on one disc.

The CD-Rom package, From Silver to Silicon (which will eventually go on sale), uses this very technology to try and understand it. A series of interactive essays reflects upon the effects of digital imaging techniques on the basic meaning of the photographic image. Now that it's possible to manipulate and re-create images beyond recognition - moving selected areas around, removing them altogether or adding new elements to the picture - seamless photographs of pure fantasy may become the norm. And what does this mean for photographic reality and the dictum 'the camera never lies'?

Seventeen artists have contributed to a package which goes some way to answering the question. The collaboration is divided into categories which explore contemporary surveillance and security, public spaces and cityscapes, domestic imagery, leisure and entertainment, and war reporting. And they're fun-filled spaces, ready to be manipulated by you, the all-important viewer.

Watershed, 1 Canon's Rd, Bristol (0272 276444) to 14 Aug; Focal Point, Southend Library, Victoria Ave, Southend-on-Sea (0702 612621) to 18 Aug. Then touring (info 0272 276444)

(Photograph omitted)