Editor's Introduction

Electronic media like the internet extend television's promise of liveness, structuring a sense of a connected presence in time that users come to feel they somehow control and move through in the click or the scroll. This sense of volitional mobility, of navigating the now, is often an illusion, no more empirically real than was the much-heralded, seldom-realized liveness of TV. Yet the sensation is powerful. We turn to the web to find out what's going on right now, from the weather to the stock market to the news. What we often find is a mass of information that is hard to make sense of and harder still to analyze. Certainly, electronic media deliver dynamic streams of data, but just what are we to do with them?
In the News poses one possible answer: visualize them. This project creates a dynamic, real-time view of what's 'in the news' on Google, a view that gives evidence of what one major news source frames as worthy of our attention. In the News harnesses the processing power of the computer to the raw data feeds that course 'behind' our screens, allowing us to 'see' the news differently. What we encounter on Google's news site as constantly-refreshed and categorized text here morphs into visual diagrams that instantly reveal the shifting terrains of the newsworthy, charting these shifts day after day, and week after week. As such, In the News functions as a series of dynamic 'sparklines,' those data-rich, highly legible graphics that Edward Tufte champions in his book Beautiful Evidence.

In the News functions as visual evidence, parsing Google in new ways, but it is also a tool that can be generalized to other datasets, allowing new visualizations and statistical graphics that, in Tufte's words, 'increase the amount of data in our eyespan' and take advantage of our capacity to process and draw distinctions among visual data. Thus, In the News joins The Stolen Time Archive and the Vectors' editors in insisting that tools can also be theories.

-- Tara McPherson and Steve Anderson