The Google Search Art Project: Keyword Portraits

Search term stories about people.

Several months ago I asked friends and strangers to share their Google search history with me for a project I was embarking on. I was curious to see what I could learn about people by looking at their online search history.

It started when I noticed how often many of my friends turned to Google search during social events. No matter what the topic of conversation, for certain friends there was always something worth Googling: an actor’s name, a historical date, that song lyric on the tip of their tongue, or the origins of that cheese on the menu. In my case, these are the types of details I am prone to instantly forget as soon as I hear them, so rarely investigate. My searches (in social settings and outside of them) are primarily practical, and admittedly unexciting: a train schedule, directions home, whether it will still be raining by the time happy hour is over.

How we search says a lot about who we are: the way we search, how often, where, and what we search for tell the story of who we are. (Or at least, of who Google and its advertisers think we are.) It’s all in there when you start to look at the keywords.

I was curious to see what I could learn about people by looking at their search history, so I asked friends, family, and strangers for a week’s worth of search keywords.

Once there were enough search terms logged, I began to draw. These are snippets of those stories.

Search term stories: