What if you could take a Photo of the Internet?

Have you ever heard of MicroFiche or MicroFilm? In the days before the Internet became the primary preserve of data storage and access, MicroFiche was the archive standard for document storage. It was essentially the process of miniaturizing many documents onto a single piece of film that could then be scanned, panned, zoomed, and reviewed with a “viewer machine” (see photo). Between you and me, it is likely the source of inspiration for pinching, zooming, and two-finger scroll on your smart phone.

While most libraries and archive institutes have long abandoned microfiche as a form of information storage, the explosion of information on the Internet begs for such a tool. The best argument for why you need such a tool is the simple fact you don’t read articles any more – we all jump from site to site scanning headlines, only rarely taking the precious time to load an article. There is just too much information to leisurely read 1000 words about a single topic or event when we can absorb 90% of what need to know just by quickly scanning headlines on the front page of a website.

Is a Photo of the Internet a WebFiche?

Just for fun, let’s pretend we created an algorithm to scan our favorite sources of information and combine them into a single image we could use to process all that information visually in a single view. What would it be like if we could create a microfiche out of the Internet; what if we created a webfiche from our most reliable data-dense web resources? This will become an on-going experiment at CognitiveMetropolis to see what is possible using this old concept with new technology. We will be exploring that topic by creating microfiche-like documents from different parts of the Internet and displaying them as examples.

News Site WebFiche

The image below is a high resolution rendering of 16 different news sites from all across the spectrum of political bias (real or imagined). The “Webfiche” functionality is created with the “magnifier” tool – when you scroll over or click on the image (desktop and some mobile) it will enlarge the area of focus and you can drag and scroll to see increased detail. If you are using a smart phone or tablet, just (press and hold to) download the image and use the touchscreen to scroll, pinch, zoom and explore. The image in native format is quite large – Approximately 4,000 x 12,0000 pixels! However, the effect is fun and visually absorbing so much data is very different than clicking and loading a website front page one at a time. Let us know in the comments section what you think!

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