The College of Fine Arts is proud to congratulate our own Department of Art Faculty, Owen Mundy, who was recently featured in several news articles all over the web such as TIME , The New York Times, USA Today, Wired UK, The Daily Dot, Vice: Motherboard and many more. This project, titled “I know where your cat lives” is a data experiment that collects information from several social media sites such as Instagram and Flickr when images are tagged with the word “cat”. The program later strips all the metadata to find geo-coordinates of where these pictures were taken and therefore creating a map with a million cat pictures found online organized by location. The official site, “I Know Where Your Cat Lives“, allows anyone to view these cat pictures from all around the world and all around the web. The site also provides interactive charts with information and data collected through this project and presents them in a visually pleasing way for viewers to enjoy.
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“I wrote software to access APIs data from top photo-sharing websites,” Mundy told the The Daily Dot. “All the data is public for anyone to access. I downloaded the photos and scrubbed all identifying information from them, then used the high-performance computing cluster at FSU to create the cluster visualizations and designed and coded a front end to put all the cats on the map.”
“I was using Instagram to photograph my 3-year-old and one day I realized that the app had been recording and embedding the geographic coordinates in my backyard,” he says. “I thought to myself, ‘I don’t recall being asked by the app if I wanted to share this data.’ It was a creepy experience that I wanted to translate in a way that was equal parts scary and fun, but technically harmless.”
“For a map of cat photos, it took a surprising amount of work to build. In fact, he had to employ the help of a supercomputer housed at Florida State University, to actually geotag and upload all the photos—it was taking ages to do on his Macbook. First, he scraped the publicly-available metadata (which includes longitude and latitude, which is how this works) from photos that are tagged “cat” from Flickr, Instagram, and several other image hosting sites, then he actually downloaded all the photos and scrubbed the metadata from it. The results you see on the map are completely anonymous, with no way of tracing an image back to the original social media account it came from (unless you posted it yourself, of course).”
As for the overall mission for this project, Owen Mundy writes in his Kickstarter,
“This project explores two uses of the internet: the sociable and humorous appreciation of domesticated felines, and the status quo of personal data usage by startups and international megacorps who are riding the wave of decreased privacy for all.”
Images courtesy of I Know Where Your Cat Lives.
Owen Mundy is an artist, designer, and programmer who investigates public space and its relationship to data. His artwork highlights inconspicuous trends and offers tools to make hackers out of everyday users. After working as a photographer in the U.S. Navy he earned a BFA in Photography from Indiana University in 2002 and an MFA in Visual Arts from the University of California, San Diego, in 2008 and is a Professor of Art at Florida State University.
For more information about Owen Mundy and his work, visit FSU Department of Art Faculty Page or Owen Mundy’s Website. If you are interested in learning more about this project or contributing to the campaign, visit the “I Know Where Your Cat Lives” Facebook Page.
A Special Thank You to Florida State University Research Computing Center and Office of Undergraduate Research who provided funding and a UROP student.