If a picture says more than a thousand words – and current internet dynamics tend to agree – what would a visual guide to the English vocabulary, contemporary and ‘webresentative’, look like? Ben West and Felix Heyes, two artists and designers from London (UK), found out when they replaced the 21,000 words found in your everyday dictionary with whatever shows up first for each word in Google’s image search. Behold Google – a 1240 page behemoth of JPGs, GIFs and PNGs in alphabetical order.
“We used two PHP scripts my brother Sam wrote for us,” says Ben about the process in an email. “The first one takes a text list of dictionary words and downloads each image in sequence, and the second lays them out into columns and outputs a PDF.” The PDF was then printed into a beautiful book – handbound, thumb indexed pages held together in a marbled paper hardcover, the golden Google logo clearly indifferent to whatever internet horrors it may contain.
“Conceptually it’s whatever you make of it,” writes Ben. The sad reality of shrinking attention spans, collective media fatigue or how an expert reference book is no match for the convenience of Google, for example. “It’s really an unfiltered, uncritical record of the state of human culture in 2012,” concludes Ben. So, how are we faring? “I would estimate about half of the book is revolting medical photos, porn, racism or bad cartoons.”