The World According to the Web
Douwe Osinga and Ernst Wit

Authors: Much has been said about the World Wide Web. It was developed at CERN for high-particle physics to share information among researchers and it is currently seen as an information resource on a larger scale. Google and other search engines in this “big telephone directory”-paradigm are simply more or less efficient tools to find pieces of specific information among many pieces of unspecific information.
Whereas in the early days of the World Wide Web, this paradigm might have been an appropriate metaphor, this is no longer the case.To view the World Wide Web as an archive in which some independent pieces of information live is to think of a medieval concept of substance, namely as the unspecific “carrier” of secondary qualities such as colour and temperature.
Just as this paradigm collapsed in favour of a more holistic approach to matter as molecular that essentially defines its substance and qualities simultaneously, so it is more appropriate to think of the World Wide Web as ecosystems of information and Google,Yahoo! And other search engines as alternative interpretations thereof. They donot just disclose information, but structure it. As the size of the World Wide Web has ballooned, in almost all cases there is no independent substratum of the information on the Web.
Although this fact can lead to (less) amusing details such as invented personalities and unsubstantiated myths, more importantly it suggest that the way the Web is structuring information is worth studying.The aim of this paper is to show a particular implementation of a mapping algorithm of symmetric relationships between objects within the Web based on AltaVista’s ordering thereof. In particular, we shall use the example of mapping the countries of the world based on an information-metric. Certain symmetric relationships, such as “war” might alter this metric and lead to new maps. Multi-dimensional scaling techniques such as Sammon Mapping are particularly useful in projecting the objects from a high-dimensional information-space to a two-dimensional map-space.

This essay was written for Read_Me Software Art and Cultures conference and is published in read_me Software Art & Cultures Edition 2004 .


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