initial thoughts re society of query writing #3

Theory and Foundations of Search + Personalization: Testing the Filter Bubble + Showcasing Alternative Search Engines

In an environment of unknown links and information, the practice of searching is becoming a key to *desired* information. Links have strategic importance like the roads and waterways which gave birth to settlements and businesses that could exploit location. Search engines are similarly strategic entry points to the Web. And because search-engines like Google wouldn’t exist if they weren’t profitable, queries must be taken as reflections of users’ desires. These desires are then treated as data that can be used in the further exploitation of the users. They incorporate mechanisms which highlight the information that best matches earlier desires. Each individual faces their own desires reflected back at them.
These reflections however are mixed with the desires of the search engine’s own operator/owner. Some are based on their interpretation of the users’ search requirements. Google has explicit filters for parental control of children, and implicit filters of porn. Others come from external pressures : political, as in China, and commercial (including accusations of bias towards popular brands). Google, in order to continue its dominance as the “gateway” to the web has to seem as if it both reflects what is “out there” and the desires of its users – despite these biases.
We are an artistic unit that addresses and responds to these issues and the aesthetic language of search. Our materials are “visibility” and “invisibility” and we consider search itself as an artistic medium.
Our initial project, Narcissus is a search-engine that critically questions positive feedback mechanisms used in popular search & social tools. (Google PageRank, Twitter “follow” recommendations.) The code critiques both itself and its users by pushing popular search results into a netherworld of the mathematical “imaginary” and confronting searchers with results that have been previously rejected. This shadow/dark information is made by both time and clicks.
Narcissus both raises theoretical issues and offers a practical tool to find neglected and obscure information. Narcissus uses visibility and invisibility to critique the aesthetics and practicalities of search. How search is linked – or not – with “finding” in a search-based society? How does “search” with a system designed to highlight the obscure differ from attempts to harness serendipity?
Projects that followed Narcissus build upon the search engine and expand into other areas, bringing our concerns and languages to physical space.
“Shadow Spot” is an urban activity that highlights invisible places in urban environments using mobile devices and the Narcissus algorithm.
In “Thames-Town” we show London residents photographs of a borough of Shanghai which is built to look like an English city, and ask them if they look familiar. In essence, we engage their misrecognitions (another in/visibility material) in the search for familiar/unfamiliar information.
For the Reader we will present a dialogue between the Narcissus artists, Phil Jones and Aharon Amir, which will explore these ideas of search as an artistic practice; how the querying of data, our imagination of this practice, is made of various reflections and shades of the self.

11 Replies

  • The systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.

    Investigate systematically.

  • : careful or diligent search

    : studious inquiry or examination; especially : investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws

    : the collecting of information about a particular subject

  • creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications.

    • used to establish or confirm facts, reaffirm the results of previous work, solve new or existing problems, support theorems, or develop new theories

      • documentation, discovery, interpretation, the methods and systems for the advancement of human knowledge. Approaches depend on epistemologies, which vary considerably both within and between humanities and sciences.

      • a process of steps used to collect and analyse information to increase our understanding of a topic or issue. It consists of three steps: Pose a question, collect data to answer the question, and present an answer to the question.

  • thing we do when we want to find something out. It is what we are trained to do in a PhD program. It’s what comes before development.

    • systematic investigation to establish facts; a search for knowledge. an attempt to find out in a systematically and scientific manner; inquire into.

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