A work in collaboration with Gijs de Heij that is part of:
* Les Colloques de Cerisy, ‘Angles morts du Numérique‘, Château de Cerisy, Normandie, FR, September 2020.
Wikipedia and Wikidata are used worldwide to train language software, such as translation apps and autocomplete functions in search engines. Wikipedia and Wikidata data is accessible and free of charge, the information is up-to-date and exists in many different languages.
When organic trees look for how they are represented in these databases, cultural and power structures become visible. This work makes it clear, for example, that not all languages are present in the same way. Moreover, the search term tree leads to individual trees, such as the chestnut tree that grew next to Anne Frank’s house. Whereas even a child can easily point to a tree in physical life, the concept of a tree is a challenge for programmers in the digital world.
This is the result of the classification culture that prevailed in the 18th century, and more specifically of the Swedish physician and scientist Carl Linnaeus. His classification system lies at the basis of contemporary botanical nomenclature. A tree is non-existent in this nomenclature, in the belief that any plant can potentially grow into a tree, depending on the climate in which it is located.
When organic trees meet the data tree gives a voice to trees, algorithms and people. Their visual stories give a critical view on the creation process of apps and other software we use on a daily basis.
Concept: Anaïs Berck
Realisation: Anaïs Berck, Gijs de Heij
Thanks to: Axel Claes
Trees: all species belonging to the following families: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tree_genera
Code: Python, Sparqle, Turtle, Jinja, Imagemagick
Source code: https://gitlab.constantvzw.org/algolit/algoliterary_publishing/-/tree/master/wikidata_drawing
Data retreived from Wikidata in March 2020.