With this series I aim to explore the collisions of media and culture that have the potential to, if you will, sideswipe each other in the way cars on a freeway might collide, sending each in a new direction.
The idea for the series came out of one such collision in Los Angeles, when I sat down with MediaPost Editor Joe Mandese to talk about what’s happening on the frontier of media, where I work.
I'm an innovations thinker for Initiative, coming to the role with an interdisciplinary background in philosophy, culture, and technology, which I use to explore the potential horizon and ethics of the media frontier.
The image is one such horizon. If you participate in digital culture today, you are being taught to experience the world's information as a visual thing. “Data is beautiful” is one way we say this. Another is to think about how we experience information on Instagram.
An image on Instagram contains all sorts of information translated into a visual thing. We know whether to laugh, offer encouragement, reflect on a memory, celebrate, or spread gossip -- all from a single encounter with an image.
Using an image as visual information this way is deeply human, and is very different than using an image for the strict definition of it -- for example, searching "love" on Google, and using "the heart" it returns as the answer to the query.
Humans routinely exceed the definition of an image, attaching all sorts of metaphors and literal meanings to it.
This is a project called "I'm Google" that explains what I mean by exceeding the definition of an image. It shows patterns that images make when allowed to flow together under different rules than by “definition” of the main thing in the shot.
Flowing together, the images create colorful patterns rarely seen in our world, exceeding the literal definition the images might have had individually, as "pasta" or "yarn" or "hay."
As media becomes more ambitious in its quest to catalog what people look at, the challenge to the catalog is how to retain the freest image possible or risk being sideswiped by homogenous catalogs of "pasta," "yarn," and "hay" that never reveal the beautiful patterns of something like "I’m Google."
Imagine searching "hay" two years from now and seeing 200 images of roughly the same haystack.
An interesting search engine that is playing with moving people toward permission to explore freer imagery is Yossarian Lives. Type in "love" and unlike Google, Yossarian returns hearts as well as rivers, trees, and stars, which are all metaphors for love (see image above for query results for the word "love").
Yossarian, like "I’m Google," is chasing after ways to exceed the meaning of images, the way humans do every day as we think in metaphors and lateral meanings about everything we see -- whether on Instagram or in real life.
So we are at the horizon of the image in media, where a sideswipe of tools like "I'm Google" or "Yossarian" could generate wild creativity; where a collision could prove nothing short of freer images, less homogeneity, and an increased collective imagination across the entire industry.