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.
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.