This project takes the Swadesh List of words for a chosen language and displays the first GIS results for each word in a grid. Think of it as a glimpse of the underlying linguistic assumptions of the Internet. This is a conceptual piece of Internet Art authored by Ted Ollier at Mindhue Studio.
For ease of analysis, the grid used in creating the Internet Swadesh image can be found on this page.
Finally, here is a composite grid of every image that was used in the Internet Swadesh lists over the past year and a half, plus two from 2012:
63 different grids were used to compose this. It’s interesting to see what the Internet considers ephemeral and what it considers timeless. It’s especially interesting to see that one of the more consistent images is #159 earth.
The composite French list, including an early version from 2012.
At this point, we come to a watershed moment. In the last 60 weeks I’ve prepared Internet Swadesh Grids for the six UN languages, ten for each language. Although interesting and (in some cases) fascinating to watch, it’s also something of a slog to do this manually. So I am taking a hiatus for a while, to see if I can figure out a way to automate the process.
However, there are still interesting things to do with the data I’ve collected. One question to answer: how much variation did each individual term display over the course of the experiment? An easy way to check is to composite the images together into one layered image. The more variation in the search results, the more blurry the composited entry.
So here’s the composited English list! This particular list contains 12 layers, not 10, as I’d done one set way back in 2012, and did a startoff set in this iteration before I decided to use all six UN languages. Some entries — like 68 horn — rarely changed, showing in this case some iteration of a French horn. Some — like 167 fire — had several different images, but they were all various flame-esque images. And some — like 97 to vomit — had a wide variety of images returned.
Arabic Swadesh up again, three Finder crashes. There’s something about the Arabic character set that MacOS X doesn’t much care for.
Last Chinese Swadesh up. Again, sometimes it seems like either cheesecake or characters. Baidu.com also changed their image search interface even more so I had to alter the protocol again.
New Spanish Swadesh up. Nothing really notable to mention.