medialab | Sciences Po
How to see one million images?
The explosive growth of cultural content on the web including social
media, and the digitization by museums, libraries, and other agencies
opened up fundamentally new possibilities for the studies of both
contemporary and historical cultures. But how we navigate massive
visual collections of user-generated content which may contain
billions of images? What new theoretical concepts do we need to deal
with the new scale of born-digital culture? How do we use data mining
of massive cultural data sets to question everything we know about
culture? In 2007 we have established Software Studies Initiative
(softwarestudies.com) at University of California, San Diego to begin
working on these questions. I will show a number of our projects
highlighting how visualization allows us to see patterns in cultural
data which were not visible before. The examples include analysis of
art, photography, film, animation, motion graphics, video games,
magazines, and other visual media, including 1 million pages of manga
(Japanese comics) pages and 1 million images from deviantArt (largest
social network for non-professional art).
Visualization as the New Language of theory
Drawing on the practical projects done in our lab softwarestudies.com,
I will discuss how computational analysis and visualization of big
cultural data sets leads us to question traditional discrete
categories used for cultural categorization (such as "style" and
"period."). But while computers can keep track of million of points
without the need of such categories, how do we resist our conventional
urge to use language to divide the world into sharp boundaries and
give them names? How can we learn from software to think differently?
Can visualization provide the new language of theory?