Googlist (MFA Thesis)
Spring 2009

Approaching the problematic perception of objectivity attributed to search engines from the point of view of interface, information design and experimentation.

Summary

As traditional classification systems give way to new forms of organization and coordination, interfaces have become a dominant aspect of our everyday lives. Classification no longer resides in the traditional system, but in the process of mediation and the interface itself. As a result, media consumers are reliant on the service of the interface to filter, prioritize, and simplify information. The search engine is one such interface that has become so ubiquitous that it is no longer “safe” to question its objectivity. Often, in order to answer our daily questions through the use of interfaces, we must ignore the question of objectivity in them.

This project begins with the assumption of a lack of objectivity in search tools such as Google. It addresses the problem from the viewpoint of a series of design experiments. While we cannot request transparency of Google’s search tools, we can look to what is available to users already, a data set evident in information design in the Google interface and the various outlets Google provides for the world. The project aims to produce a set of instruments through which the intent of an Internet searcher is reoriented to include the conflicting objectivities within the answers given by the search engine. Turning to the search interface of Google for the core of the design experiments, image search was chosen because of the ease of seeing patterns through the results.

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Interface, Information Architecture, PERL, Javascript, Flash, HTML