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 benefitfrom the infrastructure provided by large culturally representativedatasets and the tools to analyse them. New cultural disciplineswill emerge, driving new software as new questions are being asked."Search engines, spam detection, Netflix and Amazonrecommendations,, Flickr "interesting" photorankings, movie success predictions, tools such as Google BooksNgram Viewer, Insights for Search, Search by Image, and andnumerous other applications and services all rely on culturalanalytics" - *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 studyof trends in culture through traditional humanities is accomplishedin the visualization of massive quantities of image and video data.The significance of this rests not only in the creation of newpossibilities within the humanities towards understanding culturaltrends, but also in the ability of humanities to guide and createthose 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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