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At the same time the French newspaper shed itself of photography from one of its editions, the inverse phenomena was being promoted by Google. In collaboration with Adam Schwartz, Edward Tufte, the famed data visualization expert launched the Chrome extension ImageQuilts. It allows you to select images from a Google Image search and arrange them into a grid, a quilt. The images can be scaled en masse, individually deleted, set to color or black and white and sundry other options. It allows you to create a seamless quilt of photographs from Google images. Mostly, you are just getting rid of the whitespace between images on a Google image search page. At first impression it seems very powerful, in actual practice it is rather limiting.

What surprises me is Edward Tufte’s endorsement of the project. Given his career of groundbreaking work in the field of data visualization and information design, this Imagequilt thing comes off as simply artsy. And his explanation on his website offers little insight:

“The resulting quilt is scanned by the viewer, who often learns more about than topic than from conventional search results.” [sic]Quilty_before.jpg

Google Image search

image quilt_after.JPG

Google Image search enhanced by Imagequilts

Imagequilt is a clever little web tool, I don’t question that, it just doesn’t seem to measure up against the pioneering career-long work that has brought data visualization to our attention and made it an institution in our visual culture.

I guess Imagequilt now turns us all into collagists, in exactly the same sense that Instagram and a cell phone makes all of us photographers.

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