An Exquisite Morass: reshaping our experience of the Google search

“What, then, is the basic difference between today’s computer and an intelligent being? It is that the computer can be made to see but not to perceive.” Rudolf Arnheim, 1969.

Humans rely on patterns—of words, images, sounds, events—to make meaning and understand the world around them. The vast amount of content found on the Internet has helped to shape these patterns for over twenty years. However, this cascading stream of information obfuscates as much as it informs. Even a seemingly straightforward Google search has been curated and shaped by invisible forces. The patterns and complex algorithms used by the computer influence our own pattern-making and perceptions.

This project explores the patterns distilled and displayed by Google, and how those patterns can be reconfigured in ways that alter our experience of online search. Using the raw materials of search results—visual screen grabs and textual headlines—and the context of “the news,” I have created experimental kaleidoscope-like visuals, and typographic studies that reveal relationships within and among the texts. When paired and displayed as both an installation and digital interface, these artifacts invite viewers to make new connections and juxtapositions that transcend the generic Google list.

Animation of Image Tiles

An Exquisite Morass: Image Tiles Motion Piece from Liese Zahabi on Vimeo.

Animation of Headline Tiles

An Exquisite Morass: Headline Tiles Motion Piece from Liese Zahabi on Vimeo.

Animation of Companion Website

An Exquisite Morass: Website Runthrough from Liese Zahabi on Vimeo.