Googlology is a playful exploration of that section of the digital photographic vernacular currently indexed by Google. It is also my first collaboration with an entirely digital entity.

Google Goggles is a visual search tool for mobile phone platforms. It allows users to take a photograph of an object or scene, which the application then analyses with the aim of identifying the content of the image and providing information about it. What I am interested in, however, is when Goggles can’t recognise the content of the image. In these cases it provides twelve images from the Google index, which it deems to be similar. Since it can only analyse the images mathematically, this selection is based solely on pixel colour and structure; the pictures are divorced completely from their content or meaning in the completely democratic ‘eyes’ of Goggles. So a news image of a nuclear missile launch in Pakistan is analysed and presented next to a stock photograph of a bottle of pills and a painting of a small boy wearing a blue hoodie. The resulting selection of images is wonderfully eclectic, and sometimes strangely moving in its fragmentary and multifarious glimpse of human culture. 

Fascinated as I was by the ‘similar images’ when I first saw them, and particularly by those whose visual similarity was not immediately obvious, I had an urge to decipher the Goggles process as much as possible. So I decided to reverse-engineer the original image as closely as possible, as a collage from the resulting twelve ‘similar images’ that are presented when Goggles cannot identify the subject of the picture.

Exploring this vast resource in this way prompts reflection not only on the general nature of society, but also on the unprecedentedly huge amount of imagery we are now surrounded by in the developed world.