[Thesis 1] The (Generative!) Google ABC Book

abc

This project can be accessed here.

Idea
An ABC book based on Google’s Autocomplete. Suggestions for each letter are automatically retrieved and may vary depending on the service selected by the user — Images, Books, youtube, etc.
The layout is set so that users can print the page, cut, fold, and make a (physical) instant book.

Concept
We spend our lives engaged with data systems, though we see them only through graphical interfaces. Even so, we don’t know much about how they work and why they came to be this way. This project is part of a series of experiments that try to shed a light on this issue, making people think about their relationship with online sources of knowledge.
The idea of printing an ABC book out of Google’s Autocomplete suggestions creates an odd juxtaposition: though these 2 things are familiar, they’re not meant to be together. Even so, they both constitute relevant sources of knowledge today.

More information about the series can be found here.

Iterations
This work is a sequence of 2 previous projects:
* Google ABC
* Google Supersearch

The iterations of this particular one were as described below:
1. User input limited to the selection of service.
google_abc_3

2. Color effects on the pictures. User could choose foreground and background colors. This was an attempt to solve the visual contrast issues.
google_abc_4

3. Content edited as a step-by-step tutorial. Functionality to print added. Also added instructions on how to make the physical book.google_abc_6

 

Technology
The project runs as described below:

* User select service. A script runs through the 26 letters of the alphabet and retrieves autocomplete suggestions for each letter using a Google non-documented API. (See design brief #3 for details).
* By hitting ok to confirm, the user triggers the instant book layout. This one is achieved through a combination of css rules and javaScript.
* After the layout is complete, the page calls a web scraper, sending the suggestions stored in the first step — ‘Ariana Grande’ for A, ‘Beyonce’ for B, etc.
* The scraper runs on node.js, some node modules, and phantomjs. It loads a Google Images page searching for the term sent by the client — ‘Ariana Grande,’ for instance.
* The scraper stores the address of the first image result and send it back to the client.
* The image is appended to its position, above the initials.
* If ‘print’ is hit, a new html page is created and the html from the book is sent to it.

The code for this project is on Github.

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