The Web is comprised of an endless expanse of continuous algorithms. Informally, an algorithm is any well-defined computational procedure that takes some value, or a set of values, as input and produces some value or set of values, as output. Thus it is a sequence of steps that transforms input to output. This sequence of steps allows you to solve a specific task. Valid algorithms must be finite, have unambiguous instructions, and of course have effective results. Our entire digital world utilizes simple but extremely powerful algorithms, which transform signals from their time domain into their frequency domain and vice versa. The internet, your WiFi, your smartphone, laptop, satellites, almost everything that has a computer inside of it uses the same types of algorithms in one way or another in order to function. But algorithms are not specifically confined to computational sciences. The first recorded mathematical algorithms dates back to 1600 B.C. when the Babylonians developed the earliest known algorithms for factorization and finding square roots.
Today, algorithms in search engines are used for more than just research–they contribute to the endless and addictive relationship that we have with the vast consumption of internet related material. Google search itself is extremely protected and on average receives 40,000 searches every second, which translates to 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Even if we consider ourselves and others to be internet hunters that search, curate, and filter through a variety of content, computer codes are dictating everything we see and everything we do not see. A year ago there were nearly a billion active sites on the web, to think we are really in control of what we search for and what we are seeing would be foolish. Apart from google, many of the websites we log into daily like Facebook, and even dating sites, are making decisions for us personalizing what we immediately have access to and recommending what we could potentially have access to.
Algorithms have become so subtle, so widespread, and so extremely important to modern culture that some theologists and sociologists worry they function as a form of social control–‘algorithms as a type of social engineering’. The series of clicks that we commit pull us into the internet phenomenon that internet activist Eli Pariser has dubbed the ‘filter bubble’, where personalization algorithms have effectively cut us off from experiencing the cultural and ideological mainstream. What we click on and the patterns we create for ourselves on the web later influence what search engines provide us. One communications researcher, Christian Sandvig, has called these patterns ‘corrupt personalization,’ an idea that personalization on the internet pretends to serve you when it is actually serving some corporate motive at your expense. Now that individuals have begun to question these so called impartial algorithmic computational codes, biases have started to emerge. Victoria Turk, from Motherboard, warned her followers that ‘Algorithms are not always neutral, they’re built by humans, and used by humans, and our biases rub off on the technology. Code can discriminate.’
UNRELATED RELATIONS utilizes a specific algorithm that incorporates The Internet and its many algorithms. This book exhibits collected and curated visual data selected from an information pool that has been generated through Google Search. The accumulated images were initially relayed from a poem–Google’s image search was used to translate its verses into a visual stream of content. From these visuals, Google Search was used again to translate specific images back into text that was extracted from Google’s published ebooks. Through this series of algorithmic translations, this performance converts and assembles web information into a printed book. This visual stream of content eludes to the unconscious act of internet browsing where one search easily transforms into another. The lineage of every link we click on the web becomes part of a stream of information consciousness that is edited and personalized by both our own mind and the mind of the computer. Through these images, computer errors become apparent, because algorithms often provide us with content that is only related in part to our initial search objectives. Unrelated Relations explores the notions that what we look for on the web and what we find are in most cases entirely unrelated.