Society of the Query conference

My question would be: can I as artist search for, select, create an audience for a particular instance of art, by using search engines?

Can I find for one artwork its audience, and gather the meanings they give to it?

Society of the Query conference:
society query250 Society of the Query announcements

Date: November 13-14 2009
Location: Trouw Amsterdam, Amsterdam
Organized by: Institute of Network Cultures

The need to create order and find meaning in the gigantic quantity of online data has turned the search engine into our most significant point of reference. In this query driven society, The Society of the Query conference seeks to analyze what impact our reliance on resources to manage knowledge on the Internet has on our culture. For two days, the conference aims to zoom in on some of the essential themes surrounding Web search, by critically analyzing and contextualizing developments in interface design and the organization of knowledge. The Institute of Network Cultures (INC) seeks to achieve this specifically by uniting researchers, theorists, activists, artists and professionals working in this area, and by creating a platform for not only realized projects and recent research, but also for open questions and speculation.

The conference program consists of five sessions. On the first day, the Society of the Query session will focus on ‘searching’ on the software level and will discuss knowledge organization within the theoretical framework of the humanities and computer science. The Digital Civil Rights and Media Literacy session addresses the intermediary function of search engines and the commercial use and storage of personal data with reference to digital civil rights such as the right to privacy and freedom of expression. The first Alternative Search session responds to a growing interest in alternative methods to search the Web, on the level of the user, the software and the network.

On the second day, the Art and the Engine session discusses the influence of Google’s omnipresence over the production and distribution of Web-based art, and highlights new and progressive developments in interface design that may stimulate the user to search, find and analyze data. Googlization of Everyday Life addresses the hegemony of the larger search engines and the impact of the current division of power on the flow of information, the diversity and accessibility of Web content and the administration of informational sources. Finally, the second Alternative Search session will critically address semantic search developments and their implementation by W3C and European cultural heritage project Europeana.

With a concluding evening program, the INC will do justice to the diversity of artistic and activist projects that examine the role of the search engine in contemporary society. Throughout the event, a display of computers with the latest generation of search engines will allow visitors to gain hands-on experience with the range of search methods discussed in the conference sessions.

Conference speakers include Matthew Fuller (UK), David Gugerli (CH), Siva Vaidhyanathan (US), Florian Cramer (NL), Lev Manovich (US), Christophe Bruno (FR), Joris van Hoboken (NL) and Teresa Numerico (IT).
For more information and registration for the event, go to

themes: search engines, network theory, social network, organized network

website: for more information go to

Art and the Engine

Even during its early stages, artists used theWeb as a platform to produce and distribute an extensive diversity of media such as animation, programming, video, audio and games. While in the last decennium we have witnessed a shift from the directory towards the algorithm, it is the art database that has been refining the directory model for years. What influence does Google’s omnipresence have over the production and distribution of Web based art? How does art criticism manifest itself in the era of Google, and how can online artistic experience be preserved and ensure it can be found easily? This session will discuss the latest developments within the field of graphic design, art and the architecture of information, presents potential outcomes of search result design and investigates how the interface may stimulate new and progressive ways for the user to search, find and analyze data.

Moderator: Sabine Niederer

Lev Manovich (USA)
Learning from Google: a search engine as a method for cultural analysis
Can we translate the principles of search engines algorithms and large scale data analysis in general into a new methodology for cultural theory? In my talk I will discuss what such a methodology would look like, and also demonstrate practical examples drawn from Cultural Analytics research conducted in Software Studies lab at University of California, San Diego.

Daniel van der Velden (NL)
Peripheral Forces: On the Relevance of Marginality in Networks
Despite the intricate system of ranking, most engines make search look deceptively simple. Initially, ranking seems like a normal, everyday procedure, comparable to the ways we judge between relevant and trivial, foreground and background information in everyday life; after all, our own hierarchies of visibility are also shaped according to certain needs, beliefs, and limitations. Often, the hierarchy applied by ranking rewards what is already popular and suppresses less often viewed currents and opinions in broad, public topics. Redesigning the search engine begins with challenging the principles of relevance and popularity inherent to ranking. In this presentation, we argue how ranking mechanisms translate as phenomena of sociability, and how a different take on the sociability of ‘weak ties’ may bring a different appreciation of their relevance to networks.

Christophe Bruno (FR)
From Dada to Google
I will present some of my artpieces that deal with the hijacking of search engines on the net. From the Google Hack, Epiphanies (2001), to my recent Dadameter (2008), which is an attempt to map language at large scale and to ‘measure our distance from Dada’. I will also discuss semantic capitalism as described in my performance The Google Adwords Happening (2002).

Allessandro Ludovico (IT)
The Google Paradigm, for the funny dictator it’s never enough.
Google establishes monopolies. It conquests predominance in strategic net sectors with a pervasive coolness and attracting error-proof functionalities. Its empire is easily and vastly acknowledged, and because of its accelerated innovation rate, ‘antitrust’ sounds like an obsolete and uninteresting word. Google has the power to establish rules that are both flexible and effective. Internally they gain more productivity lending ‘freedom’ to employers in organizing their own working time. Externally its brand and products are focusing on a sophisticated commodification of knowledge, pursued through the myth of sempiternal searchability and sold with the semi-infinite potential of contextual advertising.This deadly combination is both entertaining through its charm and creating a conceptual shield for their growing collection of monopolies. But even if Google wants to sweetly take over a large part of the internet and entertain us forever, there are still chances to debunk their incredibly effective communication (at all levels) strategy and mass-based economy. Based on the aftermath of Google Will Eat Itself artwork, a parasite strategy can be outlined to conceptually dismantle their seemingly self-referential paradigm.

Ton van het Hof (NL)
Flarf performance
Flarf poetry is sometimes referred to as an avant garde poetry movement of the late 20th century and the early 21st century. Flarf poets harvest their material on the Internet by typing in combinations of search terms in aWeb search engine. Whether coming across Shakespear’s Sonnets, Heideggers Sein und Zeit or gross stories about animal sex, Flarf poets take today’s society as it presents itself, and give it back to us; abstracted, enlarged and ridiculed.



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