Google Arts and Culture – Weaving A Fabric of Complexity and Moving Towards a Newly Curated Future – Lauren and Carson

The Meaning-making of Curation

To begin our understanding of the meaning-making process of curation we drew from Professor Irvine’s words on reproduction and creating “moments” of art. He writes, “It is the same with figures that in reproduction lose both their original significance as objects and their function (religious or other); we see them only as works of art and they bring home to us only their makers’ talent. We might almost call them not “works” but “moments” of art.” With this in mind, we found that we could illustrate a case study where individuals may study a single piece of art 200 times and compare that to those who take a collection of works of the era and study them in the cultural context of the era’s customs, politics, science and medicine. In this sense we gain an understanding of the complex cultural and artistic fabric that has been weaved over that timeline. As we view the Google Arts & Culture Project’s pieces, we see the zeitgeist of that time rather than one single piece. This is the art of curation. While we may lose some details in a single piece by focusing on these “moments” of art, we that we gain a much greater understanding of the moment by viewing its past influencers and future influences. With the creation of the Google Arts Project, however, we have the affordances of digital remediation to gain the details in individual pieces back. In a digital space, we are granted the ability to both see the larger cultural context and the individual details at the same time. Taking Pierce into consideration, we must remember that a piece of art is a sign vehicle and acts only as one part of the meaning-making process. The other components of the meaning-making process are the relationships between individuals, the vehicle, and past culture.



Understanding Complexity of the Remediation of Art

“Thanks to the rather specious unity imposed by photographic reproduction on a multiplicity of objects, ranging from the statue to the bas-relief, from bas-reliefs to seal-impressions, and from these to the plaques of the nomads, a “Babylonian style” seems to emerge as a real entity, not a mere classification— as something resembling, rather, the life-story of a great creator,” continues Professor Irvine. Grusin and Bolter describe remediation as creating a mosaic of the individual parts in a new platform. We see that the remediation process of photography and then subsequent digital layout and curation very much resembles the mosaic that Grusin and Bolter were referring to. In this space, the seemingly invisible relationships become far more tangible through the Google Arts & Culture Project. Museums have historically attempted to master the art of visually rendering these connections through curation. However, digitality offers far greater affordances in the art of linking and displaying complexity through the remediation process.  As Professor Irvine notes, through photography reproduction, a theme such as the “Babylonian style” or “Cubism” seems to emerge as a real entity rather than just a classification. This emergence is created not by simply one artistic piece, but by the interaction of many unsimple working parts creating a larger system. This system then demonstrates emergent properties not seen in the individual smaller entities. This is the definition of a complex system – a system that a cultural fabric is constantly working within but one we try to pull apart into simple parts and relationships in our search for meaning-making of the entire zeitgeist.



Museums as Meta Space

Museums themselves are meta. Places like the Louvre and the British Museum are cultural symbols filled with cultural symbols. Integrating the Google Art Project and these cultural symbols creates new levels of symbolism.

Multiple levels of symbolism:


Level One: A Piece of Work

The Rosetta Stone









Level Two: The Gallery or Museum the painting is housed in

The British Museum







Level Three: Google Arts & Culture







Level Four: Exploring the Icons with 360 Video

306 view of British Museum

Google Arts & Culture Interface

As a digital interface, the Google Arts & Culture Project is changing the nature of museum environments. Herbert Simon writes, “An artifact can be thought of as a meeting point—an “interface” in today’s terms—between an “inner” environment, the substance and organization of the artifact itself, and an “outer” environment, the surroundings in which it operates. If the inner environment is appropriate to the outer environment, or vice versa, the artifact will serve its purpose.” With this in mind, we analyzed the interface of the Google Arts & Culture Project and see that the project has immense potential. The freedom for personal exploration through photographic representations allows the viewer to study their topics of interest. The site also creates unique curations through movements like Dada and Pop to other themes such as Time or even Color Pallet. The “Art Adventures” create digitally rendered curated explorations into …..


screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-1-56-05-am screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-1-56-30-am

The Interactive Interface and Agency 

Reminds me of Conery when they talk about this:

“Clearly there must be some structure to the computation, otherwise one could claim any connection of random symbols a constituted state” (p.815).

There needs to be a reason for the output, in turn making it symbolic.

Wegner says, “The radical notion that interactive systems are more powerful problem-solving engines than algorithms is the basis for a new paradigm for computing technology built around the unifying concept of interaction”

This supports the agency embedded within the interface.


Morse only wanted what he thought would be important in his painting of the gallery. Is the Google Art Project the same? What exactly decides what shows up on the main interface? Is there agency within the interface or are there predetermined patterns that could skew the meaning making process?

The Future of Google Arts Project Interface Design

“Perhaps the most important role of the Google Art Project is to be a ‘‘platform,’’ as Michael Edson puts it, giving rise to new and surprising ways of interacting with collections,” writes Nancy Porter. She notes that Google’s Create a Collection is a very popular feature and in our exploration of the Google Arts & Culture Project, we found a link to “create your own curation.” However, this link was not active and the interface for this feature has not been created. Like Nancy Porter, we envisioned the great potential this project could have if the feature existed. We believe that the full affordances of digitality are not being utilized in this project. With the digital revolution, we have seen an emergent property of “making” as a digital research tool. The Google Art project attempts to allow you to take greater agency over your museum-like exploration through finding your own way through the site, but the exploration phase fails to allow you to curate your own experience. We have imagined a Google Art Project that allowed you to have an individual account attached to the site. Here, your artistic journey would begin and you would be allowed to make your own collections similar to interfaces like Spotify, Zotero, and Tumblr. These personal collections would then be shared publicly with others and could be compared and analyzed and there would be digital art curation gate keepers who would receive massive amounts of followers.


These personal curated collections would help us better understand our cultural meaning-making processes and the complexities of how we view symbolic and artistic movements while exploring ours and others’ collections. These collections act as hyper-distributed cognition in somewhat real-time and constantly changeable digital visual renderings of the seemingly invisible relationships between artifacts, individuals, and culture. Participants can also create “Art Adventures” using the simple motion effects used in the already highlighted “Art Adventures” like Vemeer’s Little Street. Acting as the ultimate gatekeeper, Google Arts & Culture could then pick certain curators or “Art Adventures” to be featured similar to the interface of Vimeo or Instagram.


These collections would allow the agency to be given back to the user that the interface had previously disrupted. The user would be able to curate and create their own patterns using the works provided that were particular to their own liking. Creating their own virtual gallery.



Martin Irvine, “From Samuel Morse to the Google Art Project: Metamedia, and Art Interfaces.”

National Gallery of Art, background on Samuel Morse’s painting, The Gallery of the Louvre.

Nancy Proctor, “The Google Art Project.” Curator: The Museum Journal, March 2, 2011.

Herbert A. Simon, The Sciences of the Artificial. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996. Excerpt (11 pp.).

Peter Wegner, “Why Interaction Is More Powerful Than Algorithms.” Communications of the ACM 40, no. 5 (May 1, 1997): 80–91.

Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2000. Excerpts in 2 files: Introduction | Chapter 1.