Boy, I sure do love whitewashing this fence!

I’m kind of hooked on Google Image Labeler. I know it’s work that computers cannot do. I know it’s work. I know that despite their best efforts to not be evil, google is exploiting the citizens of the internet as cheap labor. I know that it’s a clever, trickster god method for google to get human beings to label their images for their search engine.

I know all this, and I keep playing it.

How does it work? First, you are matched up with an anonymous partner. Then, you are both shown the same image. You are shown a list of words that are “off limits” if any. For instance an obvious picture of a woman may not allow “woman” as the label, forcing you to recognize the person or get more creative.

You have two minutes to get through as many pictures together as you can. You get points for matching labels, with more points being awarded for labels outside the norm, although I don’t know how they actually judge them. At the end of two minutes, you are shown your partner’s responses, and the sources for the pictures.

I have tried to figure out why this is so compelling. Is it the multiplayer with an anonymous stranger? Is it because it is a “game” that taps the shared unconscious? Is it the opportunity to flex the vocabulary that has languished while I bend aetheric energies to my will? Is it the opportunity to be really snarky with photographs?

There are probably many reasons. But whenever I’m playing it, I feel as if our shared (internet) cultural currency becomes manifest in our responses.

If there is one thing I’ve learned is that I don’t know Josh Brolin from Josh Groban, nor do I know my Hiltons as well as most people do. As a rule, I am horrible with celebrities.

If there is one thing that could be done to improve the “game,” (fingerquotes!) it would be to increase the resolution of the pictures. Sometimes, it’s just too difficult to recognize a screenshot of Ninja Gaiden Sigma when it’s shrunk down to 120 pixels in width.

Also, I think I just played the game with internet presence Cory Doctorow. It may or may not have been him (you can display whatever nickname you want), but I got a kick out of reading the responses. I really should have tagged that one pro wrestling picture with “thinly veiled homosexuality.”

That match would have been awesome.

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