Searching for Function out of Form
How artistic research from graduate school sparked an interface idea for client tooling
Early in my design education at UCLA’s Design Media Arts program, professor Rebeca Méndez shared insight into her practice. Her art practice fed into her client-based design practice, which then fed into her teaching practice. This cycle pushed her to discover new creative pursuits. For me, this cycle consists of my art practice and my design work. Recently, the design work relies on an artistic exploration from a couple of years ago.
During my MFA program I used political discourse as the source material for my creative expression. Harm to Ongoing Matter took the Mueller Report and transformed it into concert visuals. In order to make this, I spent time tabulating word counts as way to look at the report in a different way. This webpage is a reorganization of Mueller’s 400+ page report.
Last year, a client of mine invited me to expand on this exploration by requesting for a way to compare texts. I consolidated the spirit of my artistic exploration into a tool accessible online. The image above is the result of me using this new tool. In the image, I pasted the first article from some of the top news outlets in the United States. The list of words on the far left column, in dark green, show the words that these articles share. Each subsequent column shows exclusive words to an article by a specific publisher. The right most column shows words written exclusive by The Washington Post article.
Certain words pop out to me. For instance, the New York Times is the only news outlet that uses titles like “Mr”. I imagine this is a stylistic choice and helps convey the voice of the Times. Fox News and OAN use patriotic vocabulary frivolously like “blitzkrieg” and “freedom”. CNN employs lots of hyphenated words like “Moscow-backed” and “separatist-held”.
The tool is simple and still full of bugs, but you can paste in any text, tabulate counts, and compare texts. There are modes to sort your text in different ways: chronologically, alphabetically, and by frequency occurrence. You can also enable a “Highlight mode” that draws arcs between the keywords to explore texts in a different way.
As this is still in progress, I do not yet know how this will push me to new ideas. But, in the meantime, I am happy for it to insight discussion. So, if you have any thoughts or feedback, I would love to hear from you,