initial thoughts re society of query writing #1
The internet is both a culture and a reflection upon culture. For most people though, the internet is, somehow unfortunately, Google. That is because search, or the practice of searching, is the opening into the increasingly dominant cultural mirror that is the internet.
Searching, the practice of using a query to find out how to evolve the idea of the used term, is in itself a language, a medium, an entity that is being manipulated for the benefit of the people that can control it. They can make stuff on the internet both visible, and invisible – and gain from it.
As a response to this state of affairs, Phil and aharon took up the challenge of Shadow Search and used the parameters to develop a search engine whose Materiality is Visibility and Invisibility – Narcissus.
In that sense, the visibile-ness of data is a constant question that is at the forefront, the details and the language of the searching practice.
Narcissus’s algorithm develops a question that is directed at both itself and the search maker – are you looking at yourself, at what you already know – or are you searching? This brings to the fore the effects of searching, once you’ve found data you like and is relevant – how can you imagine
Narcissus as a 1st. As a society of searching, we…
shadowspot – thames town, others..
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.
In an environment of unknown links and information, the practice of searching is becoming a key for opening up the links into the desired information. Like the strategic importance of waterways and roads, which gave birth to settlements and businesses which attempted to exploit locations for the benefit of the inhabitants, search engines are the strategic entry points to the network that is the Web, Because search engines like Google will not be there if there if they were not profitable, quires are taken as reflections of and for users desires. These desires are then seen as data that can be used in the further exploitation of users via self reflection. Reflecting the information that best matches people’s desires. Each individual, and their own desired reflection.
These reflections however are mixed with the desires of the search engine’s operator/owner, and how They think it is best to reflect users search results. Hence, for example, google has various filters, some visible – eg “parental” – some are less visible – eg “porn” – some are commercial – eg make X more visible because its good for google – and some are political. Google, in order to continue its dominance as a “gateway” to the web, to continue its being most people’s 1st point of entry to the web – has to Appear as if it both reflects what is “out there” and the desires of its users.
In this sense, both commercial, and non commercial search engines – such as Yacy – attempt to make visible that which might match both their moral sense of being and the desire expressed by the search queries..
We have developed a search engine that is built upon the language of search query algorithms and visibility. Using the intersection between search and visibility, the code questions both itself and its users by constantly bringing up the least visible results. These shadow/dark bits of information are elements made both by time and clicks – hence a result that Used to Be visible and liked, might become, in time dark and in the shadows.
By allowing the once popular results to have possible come-backs, and once dark and shadowy information, to have its moments for visibility, the search engine algorithm produces questions that may be taken into wider areas than mere information queries – however, artistically, it is still using the aesthetic language of search. A language which, to have a sense of how to live in an environment of unknown links and information – there might be some relevance in learning.
Through recorded conversations made specifically for the publication, Phil + Aharon will explore the ideas that make the search engine an artistic practice in itself. We will use the works it spawned – eg shadow spot – possible implementations, social and artistic relevance, and so on..