Semantic Map

© "Semantic Map" (2001/04) Information levels of the Semantic Map with relational references. Interactive installation at Edith Russ Haus, Oldenburg, Germany 2007 ; Fleischmann-Strauss

(collective) Monika Fleischmann | Wolfgang Strauss

Semantic Map ,
Co-workers & Funding
DIRECTION and CONCEPT: Wolfgang Strauss and Monika Fleischmann
TECHNICAL TEAM: Adam Butler, Ansgar Himmel, Kai-Uwe Kunze, Jasminko Novak, Christoph Seibert, Martin Schneider, Stefan Paal.
DESIGN: Jochen Denzinger, Lina Lubig

German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

2002 Prix Ars Electronica, Linz, nominated in the category net vision/net excellence
2005 Medidaprix, finalist and winner of the audience award
2007 "Semantic Map" awarded as Pioneering Product of the 21. Century. In: Prof. Hänisch (Ed.), 100 Pioneering Products of the Future. Econ Berlin
  • Semantic Map (2001)
    1406 × 1074
  • SM-Ebenen
    1551 × 547
  • Semantic Map Work Layers
    1020 × 819
  • New Archive Faces
    1136 × 879
  • Shared Thinking Space
    1173 × 873

The Semantic Map presents individual documents as nodes in a network of themes and practices. By differentiating and becoming co-producers of meaning, viewers can actively engage with content and uncover new insights. In this way, the Semantic Map supports the recognition of seeing as a constitutional performance of the reader. It is a synchron optical interface that zooms in and out seamlessly, supporting both visual and text-based searching on a single screen.

The Semantic Map is an interface for the spatial discovery of knowledge in the database and a tool for the visualization and analysis of information in the digital archive. The database entries are calculated by a trained artificial neural network. The Semantic Map is based on the principle of self-organizing maps invented by Teuvo Kohonen in the 1990s.
Using semantic text analysis, the Semantic Map 1) uncovers content-related connections between texts, 2) identifies similarities, 3) generates keywords, and 4) summarizes the documents into thematic clusters. This process is iterative. Each new document added to the Semantic Map changes the Map and affects its appearance. The Semantic Map is a representation of the digital archive that goes beyond the individual object and presents it as a virtual cartography. Searching and finding, overview and detail are combined on one and the same level of the interface. It is an operational image that evokes movements of thought.

The Semantic Map transforms the database archive from a static repository of information into an artificially "intelligent", navigable knowledge network. The synchronous-optical interface combines visual and text-based search. Archive entries are in relation to each other, and semantic relationships are made visible. In this way, the Semantic Map is a first approximation of Marvin Minsky's 1990 statement: "Imagine if the books in a library could talk to each other".
Browsing the Semantic Map is like walking through an exhibition where the viewer sees more than an isolated object. The documents of individual works and artists appear as nodes in a network of thoughts, themes, and practices. The "reader" of the map discovers information through differentiation and thus becomes a co-producer of meaning. This is the performative act of the viewer and the interface. The goal is to break down fixed categories and enable associative thinking.

Berta Sichel, who curated the exhibition "Resonance: Looking for Mr. McLuhan" at Pratt Manhattan Gallery, N.Y., writes about Semantic Map: "Will future formats create a new literacy? McLuhan was sure that sooner or later mass society would see print and linear culture replaced by tactile and electronic culture. Somewhat along the same lines, Fleischmann & Strauss’s Semantic Map creates an unconventional digital archive for the interdisciplinary field of media art, where no cross-subject system exists. It works as a virtual art encyclopedia whose level of information increases with each user. As McLuhan often said at the end of the 1970s, "The user is the content"; he wasn’t speaking in the context of an electronic digital archive, but his thought is confirmed by this piece, where the user generates his/her own content".
Performative interfaces like the Semantic Map transform the digital archive into a medium and format that can be staged and exhibited as a publicly accessible space of thought.
Semantic Map is the recipient of the 2005 SWR & ZKM International Media Award for Art & Science.
Software: XML, text analysis, Kohonen self-organized neural network (SOM), Java
  • aesthetics
    • documenting
    • experimental
    • immersive
    • interactive
    • narrative
    • performative
    • real-time
    • visual
  • genres
    • database art
  • subjects
    • Art and Science
      • algorithms
      • artificial intelligence (science discipline)
      • cartography
      • dynamical systems
    • Arts and Visual Culture
    • Media and Communication
      • access
      • search engines
    • Technology and Innovation
  • technology
    • displays
    • software
      • Extensible Markup Language (XML)
      • Java
Technology & Material