Saturday, 9 Feb 2008

Mapping Transitions

 Mapping Transitions

Mapping Transitions was an exhibition curated by Christian Paul at the University of Colorado.  While distinctly different in their approach, the art projects commissioned for Mapping Transitions are all concerned with the visualization of various forms of data flow and data sets. Both Mary Flanagan’s and Lisa Jevbratt’s project explore the ‘search’ as an aesthetic form of mapping the Internet. Flanagan’s [search] examines the search engine as a creator of context and meaning by reconfiguring its content in a way that illustrates semantic levels, which usually aren’t obvious to the viewer. Displaying the constant stream of questions that users ask the Internet—a stream that ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime—the project creates a topography of Internet users’ interests and a map of the function that the Internet fulfills in people’s daily lives. On one level, [search] is the unfiltered stream of consciousness that saturates the network at any given moment. Flanagan imposes a filter on this stream by allowing users to select words from the incoming flow of questions, which in turn triggers a search on the chosen term. Yet another layer is provided by a kind of Visual Thesaurus that reveals synonyms for the words selected by the user, enhancing the contextual network of meaning. While there are Web statistics that illustrate what categories of information are most frequently requested by users (entertainment, business, pornography, art), we seldom get a chance to look at the micro-level of the request, the actual question that induces a search. Flanagan’s project uses a layering of filters for the creation of meaning that fluctuates between the randomness and control inherent to the network itself. [search] is geared towards transparency, visualizing what users want from the network as well as the process of the project itself. Meaning is unveiled as a transitory and continuously fluctuating process.

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