Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Monday, August 08, 2005

Amaztype: Representating Texts/Searches

It is amazing how often I find something online by sheer happenstance. A click here leads me here, a click there lead me someplace else. Though not strictly a narrative experience (though some might argue that 'surfing' does in fact create story), my hypertexting through, across, in and out of various interconnected websites does lead me on a journey. Most recently, my journey to 'the most advanced digital clock ever' (see last post) led me to a web designer's site, which serves as a kind of online portfolio. One of the designer's works is a project for called amaztype.

amaztype is a search engine that allows you to look for a word or phrase in the titles or authors of books, music, or videos. amaztype then begins to generate thumbnails (of varying size) of all the things that contain the keyword or keyphrase. All of the images are drawn from Amazon's website. The clever and fascinating thing is that the thumbnails begin to slowly pile-up one on top of another and eventually form the very word or phrase searched for. For example, I typed the keyword "laser" and all of the titles with that word came up to form the letters L-A-S-E-R.

The amazing thing (imagine that) is that all of the thumbnails can be clicked on. Clicking on a title zooms in the camera view. Then pertinent data about the item, such as full title (with keyword in red), author, price, sales rank, and user rating, come up. You can then choose to get more information and a new browser window opens to the item's page. While zoomed in, you can click through the pile of items. It isn't a sorted search. It invites exploration, the turning over of stones. In a way, the experience is like looking through a bin of books or CDs or video tapes. (Again, a kind of unstructured journey and narrative -- like web surfing.)

The project is enticing, exciting as you watch more and more thumbnails pile up and pile up. amaztype reminds me of the work done at, which the site describes as: "A TextArc is a visual represention of a text—the entire text (twice!) on a single page. A funny combination of an index, concordance, and summary; it uses the viewer's eye to help uncover meaning." In a way, amaztype allows the user to visualize their search, to understand the immensity of their search (literally showing a huge, overlapping pile of items), and to create a virtual (pseudo-virtual) experience much like browsing or rummaging.

Furthermore, the site provides a "new" feature called amaztype zeitgest, which generates the top ten keywords users have entered for the various search categories. There is definitely an emergent narrative in those lists.

I'm sure there's more to say about it (once I do a little follow-up reading and research). For now, it's still darn neat. Go play!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Time: Is it digital? Or is it analog?

While making may way through my usual haunts online, I came across a LiveJournal entry touting "the most advanced digital clock ever!" I was intrigued and took a look at the link:, which takes to you a page designed by Yugo Nakamura. (Some of the web design and digital experiments are quite interesting, in particular Selection #5: Amaztype.)

The link above takes you to the "Industrious 2001" page with an animated real-time clock where the letters and numerals are images of handwritten letters and numerals in thick pencil. As the seconds, minutes, hours, and date (though I did not sit and wait to watch the day change) changes with an animation of the letter or number being hastily erased and the successive character written in its place. It is black-and-white and decidedly mesmerizing.

I'm not sure how to think through the project. It's definitely high on the 'neat' scale. But there is a curious comment here on the juxtaposition of the digital and the analog, the virtual and the physical. It's on the tip of my tongue, at the tips of my typing fingers. On a gut level, the clock is nostalgic for me. Very few of us now really work with pencil and paper anymore (much less an actual wooden pencil rather than a mechanical one). The scratch of the HB lead on paper is a happy sound for me. The clock reminds me of all of these things.

More soon.