We rely upon Internet search engines to help us gather information, download entertainment, find jobs, or read periodicals. Search engines are deeply rooted in the daily activities of most computer users. [search] is an internet-based application which explores the human desire for information and knowledge through real-time monitoring of internet search engine inquiries from around the world. Search engines become mini-recordings of moments, constructing linguistic and cognitive collages, information, or even topographies of memory and desire. The web art piece [search] offers live inquiries within a search engine to present such software as a creator of context and meaning. [search] operates on several layers of desire at once; sources of desire becomes blurred and transferred both semantically and practically to the user of the [search] internet art work. First, the desires of the searchers are on display in the work, parading by in an endless stream of unstoppable wishes.! Second, the desires of the participants come into play, as users move and select particular search words generated either by searchers or by the Ask Jeeves natural language generation process. The chosen terms in [search] offer another layer of searching ? these chosen words search their own similes in thesaurus databases. With further linking of disparate words spinning on the screen, a web of words is created; links between favorites such as, for example, “toast” and “footgear,” creating new word cloud sets from associative linguistic databases. These various levels of searching and questing look at the string of signifiers and meaning fluctuating on each layer of a search. The work then not only offers a glimpse at what anonymous searchers desire, but how each user falls within such a transient desiring process.
Mary Flanagan is an inventor-designer-activist in New York City and leads the Tiltfactor research group at Hunter College in New York City. Flanagan’s artwork has been shown internationally at venues including the Whitney Museum of American Art, SIGGRAPH, Ars Electronica, the Guggenheim, and other international venues. Her essays on digital art and gaming have appeared in many periodicals and books including Art Journal and Wide Angle. Her books include Reload: Rethinking Women + Cyberculture (MIT Press 2002), the co-written book Similitudini. Simboli. Simulacri (SIMilarities, Symbols, Simulacra) in Italian (Unicopli, 2003), and reskin (forthcoming, MIT Press). She is the creator of “The Adventures of Josie True,” the first internet adventure game for girls, and is co-founder of Rapunsel, a research project to teach girls programming (http://www.rapunsel.org).