Written by Yong Kim
Google Gravity comes from the imagination of Ricardo Cabello, whose Google+ profile shows his occupation as “Pressing buttons” and employment as “Mr Doob.” His actual occupation is designer/developer. His site, Mr Doob, contains a variety of interactive new media projects, one of which is Google Gravity.
Back in March, in our own feature, No Man’s Land, I wrote about Google Sloppy, a lazy and inaccurate counterpart to Google, a humanistic version that yawns, makes mistakes and has malfunctioning parts. The search results I got from interacting with Google Sloppy didn’t yield any proper results, meaning Google Sloppy searched for something other than what I’d entered. When I searched for “Charlie Sheen Winning,” I got the results for “charlie shee nwinning.”
Unlike Google Sloppy, Google Gravity yields the correct results (i.e. the results you’d get from Google). As the name suggests, every link on Google’s home page–including the search field and links that are normally at the top of the screen–drops to the bottom when you enter the site. All subsequent searches get piled on top until you have a collage of search results. If someone doesn’t like the arrangement of the links, then she can move them around at any time, including the search field. As you can see from the screen capture above, I got my search field upside down, which was an accident, and couldn’t get right side up once the search results piled up.
Every pile, or collage, becomes unique once you start to interact with it because even though the results for any given term will yield the same set of results every time, the same ones you’d get if you searched for the same term on Google (the parameter seems to be set to show, or drop, 4 of the top results), once you start flinging the links around they don’t quite land in the same arrangement. If you like the collage of results you have and want to capture it, don’t minimize that browser session. It will go blank; at least it did for me every time I tested it on three different browsers. I do not know if this is intentional. I discovered it accidentally when I minimized my browser session to open my screen capture software.
So what’s the point of Google Gravity? Since I don’t know Ricardo Cabello personally, I don’t know what his intended statement is. For me, though, it’s an examination of our day-to-day online activity, the trail it leaves, the pile of data that accumulates every single day, which Google or any search engine or social network is all too happy to mine to produce metadata, which is then sold to corporations (to do with as they please), or even given to government agencies who will invade your privacy even further.
Whenever I’ve started a new session on Google Gravity, the links piled up and filled the screen in about 6-8 searches. On any given day I do dozens of searches. It’s rather daunting to think about the ginormous piles of data I’ve produced over the years, scary when I think about the times when I forgot to log out of my Gmail or Facebook account before doing those searches, which means a large portion of that data has my name on it. If Mark Zuckerberg, Robert Scoble, and David Kirkpatrick, as well as Google+–all of them proponents of online transparency–get their way, most of that data, if not all of it, will have my name on it. When that happens, I will go off the grid, back to using rotary phones, Internet cafes, and print media, perhaps even homing pigeons.