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Archive 2020

"Analyzing Culture in the 21st century." Interview by Niels Kerssens and Annet Dekker.
May 12, 2009.


Archive 2020: What direction do you see Cultural Analytics taking in the future?

Lev Manovich: One of the directions we are planning to pursue in the future is the development of visual systems that would allow us to follow global cultural dynamics in real-time. Imagine a real-time traffic display (la car navigation systems) – except that the display is wall-size, the resolution is thousands of times greater, and the traffic shown is not cars on highways, but real-time cultural flows around the world. Imagine the same wall-sized display divided into multiple windows, each showing different real-time and historical data about cultural, social, and economic news and trends – thus providing a situational awareness for cultural analysts. Imagine the same wall-sized display playing an animation of what looks like an earthquake simulation produced on a super-computer – except in this case the “earthquake” is the release of a new version of popular software, the announcement of an important architectural project, or any other important cultural event.

What we are seeing are the effects of such “cultural earthquake” over time and space. Imagine a wall-sized computer graphic showing the long tail of cultural production that allows you to zoom to see each individual product together with rich data about it (a la real estate map on – while the graph is constantly updated in real-time by pulling data from the web. Imagine a visualization that shows how other people around the word remix new videos created in a fan community, or how a new design software gradually affects the kinds of forms being imagined today (the way Alias and Maya led to a new language in architecture).

These are the kinds of tools we want to create to enable new type of cultural criticism and analysis appropriate for the era of cultural globalization and user-generated media: three hundred digital art departments in China alone; approximately 10,000 new users uploading their professional design portfolios on every month; billions of blogs, user-generated photographs and videos; and other cultural expressions which are similarly now created at a scale unthinkable only ten years ago.

2009  Interview