RFID: Mapping Future Histories was a workshop that took place at the recent Recalling RFID conference in Amsterdam. The workshop attempted to visually map some of the issues around RFID by using various methods to extract language, location, time and ranking from various web services.
The workshop was initiated by the Digital Methods Initiative that specialises in online research methods:
“The Digital Methods Initiative is a contribution to doing research into the “natively digital”. [...] How does one do research online? What are the new objects of study, and how do they alter pre-existing methods? [...] Which digital methods innovate with and also critically display the recommender culture that is at the heart of new media information environments?”
They have developed a very extensive set of tools that can be used to scrape, crawl and otherwise interrogate online data:
”[A] set of allied tools and independent modules have been made to extend the research into the blogosphere, online newssphere, discussion lists and forums, folksonomies as well as search engine behavior. These tools include scripts to scrape web, blog, news, image and social bookmarking search engines, as well as simple analytical machines that output data sets as well as graphical visualizations.”
The workshop resulted in five visualisations:
The Substantive Composition of RFID According to Folksonomy and the Web
This project asked the question: “which issue language is significantly associated with RFID?” by looking at both del.icio.us tags and Google results.
Wikipedia Anonymous Authorship Cartogram
This project simply asks: “Where do anonymous Wikipedia edits for RFID originate” by using a specialised Wikipedia edit scraper.
Drama in Search Space: RFID and Arphid Queries Over Time
This project looks at the relative rankings of sites in Google over time, to find when and what issues emerged or disappeared.
RFID Imagery: ‘Wet’ and ‘Dry’ Associations Compared
This project asks “Is RFID in its imagery (according to Google Images) largely associated with technonature or technoculture” by visually analysing the results of Google image searches.
Issue Packaging on the Web: Style Sheets for RFID Sites by Site Type
Looking at the colors and styles on RFID-related websites and trying to cluster them. What patterns emerge?
It’s fantastic to have such visual material emerging from a one-day workshop. All of these visualisations feel like they would benefit from some dynamic or interactive elements: representing some variable in time for instance, so that we could see shifts and changes in the landscape.