Culture Map

Net Composition and Culture Map

May 2000

Supported by The Greenwall Foundation

Part cartography and part abstraction, the “Net Composition and Culture Map” (“Culture Map” for short) is an imaging system that depicts the evolving content of the Web. How the Culture Map looks depends on how the Web changes. Using data collected from search engines, it forms an interactive image that reflects the prevalence of various words in the pages of the Web. It draws attention to ways of perceiving the proportions of Web content and poses questions about the role of artists in the representation cyberspace.

Keywords: meta-cartographic information art.


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“The work visualizes the dynamic and ideologically biased evolution of search engines. Everyone could see the biases of the portals like Yahoo!, which were very popular in 1999-2000: they presented options like Entertainment, Society, and Sports for visitors. Less clear were the ways that search results were filtered and distorted by the priorities of corporate search engine algorithms. CultureMap’s daily monitoring of key terms has shown over time that the major search engines have become increasingly homogenous – often reporting identical hit counts for most terms. The apparent freedom of picking search terms rather than categories, and the alleged ‘democratic’ qualities of the search algorithms are both in question in the visualization of cultural categories and change. The work was partly inspired by the Map of the Market, which made a similar visualization of financial positions of corporations. CultureMap, however, took a more satirical approach to this voyeurism, even converting the changes of hit counts into a kind of market ticker. The implicit question, of course, was ‘where are we heading with these new portals to knowledge.’”

Andy Deck, 2011