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    Search Engine Art: Internet Imperialism and the image in context

    Electronic Visualisation and the Arts (EVA 2018)

    London, UK, 9 - 13 July 2018


    Gretchen Andrew



    Compare the image search results for “boy crawling” and “girl crawling.” In the first you see cute babies, in the second you see scantily clad women in seductive poses. Similarly compare “boy at work” with “girl at work” or “school boy” with “school girl.” This sexist representation of women is a result of Google’s extremely profitable revenue model. Conduct an image search (images.google.com) for “Amazon.” Do the same for “Cherokee.” The results, dominated by the ecommerce company and the car brand respectively, tell us something important about how the internet works and who is more likely to benefit: companies over communities and products over people. Not only is the current Internet unequal but artificial intelligence is programmatically encoding this discrimination into our future.

    Artificial intelligence uses large data set, such as all the images of “girls” on the internet, and learns to label future images based on common characteristics found in the initial data set. Machines are learning that girls are sexualized women while they are learning that boys are young male children. We don’t know the full impact of AI, but it is already being built into technology we trust and depend on. It may not equally respect us all. Internet Imperialism is Search Engine Artist Gretchen Andrew’s method of intentionally structuring information dominate the online definition or reputation of a place or idea. It is a central part of her art practice through which she manipulates search results, swapping existing image results for her paintings.

    In doing so, she creates a less product-focused Internet that encourages discussion about how the internet could better come to reflect the human complexity we see IRL (in real life). This paper discusses these topics and shares examples of past & ongoing artworks including sharing of the artist's method of Internet Imperialism.


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