Searches as art installation

When I went to the Google HQ for the Ubuntu Developer’s Summit in Mountain View, I – and many others – were suitably impressed with the cute art installation that they had installed in the lobby. It is simply as screen showing Google search queries scrolling by:

One list of Google search queries

more such queries

It is quite hypnotic to look at such search queries, trying to guess what people are trying to find out. It is curious to see how people use Google both to find things they know where are (such as Hotmail or vitrinemotos.com.br) and things they do not (vacation planning, 4 wheel drive test). But perhaps especially the ones who take the query part a bit too seriously – such as writing “que es un servidor web?”

I enjoyed the thought that all of these queries were performed in real time and that it was a complete list of queries as it happened. But soon my illusions were shattered when I was told that the list scrolling on the screen was a cached copy of searches filtered for profanity looping on an old server unconnected to the Internet standing behind the lobby counter.

But still, the idea has huge potential. Every single little query we feed to Google is part of a story in itself, and collecting them would be a very telling way to describe how we use both computers and the Internet through Google. As a little experiment, try going to the Google page on a computer and a browser you use often, and try looking through the list of old queries that you have fed it. See if you can remember why you searched for some of those things in the first place – you’ll be surprised at the stories which might appear…

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