CIRCA:Cultural Analytics / Software Studies


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The Software Studies Initiative was founded by Lev Monovich, UCSD Professor of Visual Arts, in 2007. Whereas traditional data analysis works with numbers and text, SSI uses visualization techniques in visual and interactive media to explore the possibility of meaningful patterns in mass collections of cultural data. The goal of SSI is to use this data to ask questions about culture.


In 2007, Lev Monovish set up the Software Studies Initiative lab at University of California, San Diego. The project is inclusive of a number of different mediums: visualization of art, film, animation, video games, magazines, comics, manga, and others. The lab uses image sets, including 4535 covers of Time magazine and 320,000 Flickr images as well as one million manga pages.

The Software Studies Initiative released Image Plot in September 2011, a tool that allows users to render collections of images and video of mass size as visualizations.


Humanists, researchers, and the general public will all benefit from the infrastructure provided by large culturally representative datasets and the tools to analyse them. New cultural disciplines will emerge, driving new software as new questions are being asked. "Search engines, spam detection, Netflix and Amazon recommendations,, Flickr "interesting" photo rankings, movie success predictions, tools such as Google Books Ngram Viewer, Insights for Search, Search by Image, and and numerous other applications and services all rely on cultural analytics" - Cultural Analytics

Purpose and Significance

The Software Studies Initiative was created to help promote the emerging field of Software Studies. The work of the Software Studies Initiative has created a framework from which the study of trends in culture through traditional humanities is accomplished in the visualization of massive quantities of image and video data. The significance of this rests not only in the creation of new possibilities within the humanities towards understanding cultural trends, but also in the ability of humanities to guide and create those cultural trends.


Technologies involved include Image Plot, a tool used to explore patterns in massive image collections; PowerWall Presenter, a representation of the humanities via gigapixel display; CommentPress 1.4.1, a blogging software extension as well as various other software tools.


Software Studies Initiative Lev Manovich, Director, Software Studies Initiative

Software Studies Initiative | UC San Diego | 9500 Gilman Drive MC 0037 | La Jolla, CA | 92093-0037

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