LOS ANGELES — Sometimes, the best way to find information about a subject is not simply to Google it, but to Google Image it. The top images associated with a keyword can be a great window into how words are perceived by the broader public. And it can be a source of inspiration as well.
But what would we do if Google disappeared? Artist Felix Heyes and Ben West have a solution: just buy their Google image book. The book — all 1,240 pages — is a dictionary of images associated with the words of the dictionary. The images are arranged alphabetically, like a dictionary, though no further context is included. The result looks like an algorithm’s view of the world, word by word, letter by letter.
“It’s really an unfiltered, uncritical record of the state of human culture in 2012,” noted West in an online interview. “I would estimate about half of the book is revolting medical photos, porn, racism or bad cartoons.” The other half, by implication, is pretty tame, so we’ll have to choose whether to see the glass half full or empty on this one.
There’s something attractive about the idea of taking the most algorithmically optimal image for every word in the dictionary and plotting it in a printed book. Imagine having something like this delivered to your door each year, and collecting them on your coffee table as the years go by. How would the images change and evolve over time?