Google Almighty (2018)
Networked communications enable and stimulate a flux of content and repetition that turns old documents into new ones, creating a non-simultaneity of the new and enduring ephemereality as Chun (2008) states when discussing the indistinct nature of new media. She illustrates how memory fades away in digital media, in the internet data degenerates to allow the regeneration of new content.
In the video, images and their respective metadata are randomly displayed by the random function of Processing. All the images are presented in the screen at once, their size and position are modified in every frame. In contrast, all collected metadata has been ripped apart into simple units, one single unit appears in each frame. The layering and juxtaposition creates infinite links between pictures and text, offering new perspectives in the interpretation of the same information as different links emerged.
The displayed of information here aligns with Foucault’s (1969) methodology for the creation of historical knowledge, based on the analysis of discontinuations, multiple scales, and strata, where more complex relationships emerge escaping the conscious mind, revealing a digital form of agency. The document is scrutinized, grouped, made relevant and placed in relation to others, it is not a mere inert material that traces historical events. Foremost, the digital document gains agency in relation to others.
The agency of data relies on its relationship with other data, other users, other websites, other algorithms. The complex structure of the Internet with its subjective protocols, the governing algorithms of social media and search engines, the continuous recycling of data and the activity of users produce a layered mix of intentions with unpredictable outcomes for information presence, credibility, and popularity.
The content used in this video was algorithmically selected and sorted by Google Image Finder. This feature allows users to search for images by uploading a photograph or embedding its url. The outputs are a list of hyperlinks: a definition of the picture’s content (or category) along with its definition from Wikipedia; a numerous list of similar images; and hyperlinks to websites where the image has been found. How accurate is Google identifying an image? What can these results tell us about Google’s algorithms and databases? What do these results mean to us as a society?
Google along with Facebook have become the main channels of knowledge and culture dissemination and consumption. There is no transparency when it comes to Google algorithms, its almighty hyperlink hierarchies control what information we receive and its degree of relevance. In addition, user experience is tailored, each user gets different results according to their data and activity. The opacity of its design presents a threat to citizens' freedom promoting totalitarian values resultant from global trends. The fact that different search engines unfold different indexes and hierarchical relationships puts in evidence the already obscure selection process of its algorithms, databases and its bias driven by economic interests (Tufekci, 2017).
Chun, W.H. K. (2008) The Enduring Ephemereal, or the Future is Memory
Foucault, M. (1969) Archaeology of Knowledge
Tufekci, Z. How Social Media Flows (2017)